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Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
2019 Race Report

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Saturday 4 May 2019

A cool spring mist blanketed Baltimore, as forecast heavy rain morphed into mostly cloudy race-day skies. Artist-engineer geniuses and others converged on the American Visionary Art Museum for the 21st annual Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race. The theme: Wheel-ality TV yielded thematic collisions, including 3 teams based on sharks, of which 2 reimagined “Shark Tank” as a shark and a military tank.

Our 6 all-terrain photographers followed the race from start to finish, taking 7,058 photos. The best 258 are in this report. Thanks to technology improvements, we also provide 44% more pixels than last year.

To see others’ coverage of the race, or to tell others about your race experiences, be sure to check out the Kinetic Forum.

Grand Champion: Pandora’s Hell Bent Kitchen

Race veteran team Soda Quackers came back with Pandora’s Hell Bent Kitchen. Fully embracing the 2019 Kinetic Sculpture Race theme “Wheel-ality TV” it features a Devil Chef with roving eyes and giant dragon Pandora making a Devil’s cake in Maryland’s largest mixing bowl. For this ludicrous display, they won both the 2019 Grand Mediocre Championship and Pilots’ Choice awards.

After a giant splash entering the water, Pandora was stably floated by large rectangular pontoons, on which propulsion was provided by pilots’ paddling.

Crew scrambled to lay ropes to supplement 4 pilots through the sand in Patterson Park. Pit crew are allowed to assist teams with propulsion unless their sculpture is entered at the stricter ACE level.

Several pit crew helped push Pandora through the mud, which had appropriate viscosity: challenging but not impossible.

After the mud crossing, Wash World volunteers eradicated the filth.

Look closely in the upper left to see the gears to turn the giant mixer blades.

This is the sixth entry from the Soda Quackers of New Jersey and Pennsylvania:

The 15-mile race starts and ends at the American Visionary Art museum; in between it snakes around the Inner Harbor.

Pandora’s youngest team member broke the finish line tape in a flaming stroller.

Concluding the awards ceremony, the Grand Championship Trophy held aloft.

Real Spacewives of Uranus

Team Goes to Eleven won the Art Award for Real Spacewives of Uranus, a bold presentation of alien reality TV.

With an efficient drive train and large wheels, their 6 pilots had plenty of power on pavement.

At the water, Cheryl the Spacewife diva took her miniature Fifi out for the call of nature. The Rampmaster observed incredulously as the pink poodle emitted small bright candy nodules.

Under the official rules

“Each Sculpture must carry at all times 1 comforting item of psychological luxury heretofore referred to as the ‘Homemade Sock Creature’ (HSC). Homemade Sock Creature must be made in a home, from a not-too-recently-worn sock from the home, and resemble a creature homemade from a sock.”

For their miniature Fifi, judges awarded the Spacewives the Sock Creature of the Universe award. There was no word from the judges on whether its candied excretory antics were a factor.

Immediately after entering the water, things got dicey. With asymmetrical weight, the port pontoon went completely underwater leading to the dreaded pontoon effect as the front steering section jackknifed to the left. Pilots, crew, and a kinetic photographer on the ramp scrambled to shift weight to starboard and right the vessel.

Spacewives’ pushing and pulling were ultimately successful. photographer Johanna also leant a hand for stabilization while continuing to take photos.

The front 2 pilots remained in the water along the pier.

You can see the paddlewheel for water propulsion, and the rudder for steering. (Pilots dropped the rudder control in the mayhem.)

Further adventure awaited at the sand. Perhaps jinxed by reports the 2019 sand was easy and short, miscommunication among pilots resulted in full speed ahead for the rear pilots while Cheryl was again taking Fifi for a walk. To avoid Cheryl, the front pilots steered into the hay bales, breaking the right-side steering linkage. They managed to patch the weld back together with bolts to limp to the finish line.

After the sand, mud was easy.

Kinetic Sculpture Races use a LeMans Start in which pilots start the race separated from their vehicles. In Baltimore, pilots linger halfway up Federal Hill until the sound of the starting gong, then race down the hill into their sculptures down Covington Street.

The Art trophy is a big deal. That looks like The Internet Dress in the colors it wasn’t.

This is team Goes to Eleven’s tenth sculpture:

Shark Tank (PLATYPUS)

Baltimore was treated to the 2019 showroom model Shark Tank (PLATYPUS) (Personal Longrange All-Terrain Yacht Proven Un-Safe), with 8 pedaling pilots led by one barnacle at the steering wheel.

This shark is bigger than a bus.

The Baltimore Department of Public Works generally does a great job preparing the racecourse each year, clearing roadways and coordinating projects. This year, DPW threw a curveball at racers on the north side of Federal Hill Park. First, low-hanging vegetation on the left pushed sculptures to the right side. Second, a rigid bollard obstructed that part of the path, concealed under a lightweight plastic barrel. And third, a permanent foot-tall marble cube protrudes into the pathway at the base of the steps leading to the cannon. PLATYPUS narrowly traversed the obstacles, but some of its decorative wheels were seized by DPW’s Merciless Bollard.

PLATYPUS passes the National Katyn Memorial in the circle along President Street. Their emergency brake froze, so they had to pedal extra hard until someone smelled the burn.

They used expired fire extinguishers to shoot smoke out the gun.

On the water, the eyeballs popped out for pilot visibility. One imagines David Hess’ workshop filled with wondrous components from prior projects. The judges awarded PLATYPUS the Engineering award for bearing a tools & parts warehouse they called a “Home Depot on wheels.”

PLATYPUS needed pushing through the mud.

Chum, of course, is the fish matter deployed when one intends to attract sharks (illegal in Alabama).

The KineticBaltimore team noticed Dylan often helped PLATYPUS navigate challenges with abandon. (Challenges are far more frquent for a gigantic sculpture.)

The gun and turret were still appropriately positioned crossing the Jones Falls; we’re not sure what happened between here and the finish line (below).

PLATYPUS has raced in Baltimore since 2005:

  • 2017 as Unidentified Flying Platypus (UFP) (20th Anniversary Mystery & Tall Tales)
  • 2017 as PLATYPUS Australian Cold-Cut Sub (Pilots’ Choice)
  • 2016 as The Golden Eyedra and the Elusive Πλατύπους
  • 2015 as PLATYPUS Lost in Space (2015 Space Cadet award)
  • 2014 as PLATYPUS LOST
  • 2012 as El PLATYPUS
  • 2011 (Grand Champion)
  • 2010 (Best Pit Crew award)
  • 2009 (People’s Choice)
  • 2008
  • 2007 (Engineering award)
  • 2006 (Engineering and People’s Choice)
  • 2005 (Grand Champion)

and before that, David Hess created Louie the Dog:

  • 2004 (Golden Flipper award)
  • 2003 (Engineering award)

and was rumored associated with:

A new generation of Kinetinauts.

Someone at AVAM lost their chair to the Engineering trophy, the only one with wheels.

Derrick took this photo of a photo Bob took of Derrick taking a photo.

Park School Bachelorette

The Park School of Baltimore brought home the 2019 Wheel-ality TV Award for most embodying this year’s theme with Park School Bachelorette. A levitating engagement ring in a box that opened and closed along the racecourse pursued a bride on a bicycle.

The sculpture was built so the pilot could see through the fabric.

Rampmaster watched closely as the trailing cans scuttled down the concrete.

It took seven people to move this ring.

The trophy included a TV set that lit up and a very fancy wooden plaque.

This was the third consecutive annual entry for the Park School:

Treez Nutz

Team 1,800 Lbs’ Treez Nuts bringing 2018’s hand-pump railcar post-industrial by sprouting a giant tree. In the tight confines of Federal Hill, real trees exchanged parts with the fake tree and bent its frame. The sculpture’s broad turning radius* required an extensive multi-point turn to navigate past DPW’s Merciless Bollard, but it eventually passed unscathed. Judge Luke alerted sculptures to the bollard, while its biggest victim was parked adjacent (more on that later).

* Draisines, full-size trains, and this sculpture have no differentials.

Kinetic naval architecture pro-tip: Check out the outboard pontoons attached to the yellow crossbar in the water (and removed on land). The further surface-level pontoons are from the center of buoyancy, the more stability they provide! (Extra-credit question: for a linear pontoon, is this relationship linear, quadratic, or something else?)

Treez Nutz’s narrow wheels left deep grooves in the sand, which volunteers raked over before the next team.

Across the finish line.

To curry favor with Kinetic Kops and Judges, they handed out seed bombs which earned the Best Bribes award.

This was Team 1,800 Lbs’ lucky 13th year in the race:


From Takoma Park, Marys Go Round was a rotating carousel with 6 pilots on the lower level plus 5 Marys up top: Mary Queen of Scots, Mary Poppins, Miss Maryland, Mary with her little lamb, and Bloody Mary.

Note the solid margin of safety on the pontoons: they’re only half-submerged, so there’s low risk of capsizing in shifting wind or weight.

When another team needed a wheel, Marys-Go-Round gave one of theirs, so the judges awarded them Spirit of the Glorious Founder.

This team has entered ten times before:

Shark Week

Team CAP Kinetic of Overlea built this rugged new Shark Week with higher ground clearance and 36-inch wheels than last year. The steering linkage from a donatured surrey joined the steering box from a Nissan pickup. It also has front-wheel, rear-seat steering that sometimes appears in Baltimore but very rarely in the California Grand Championship.

Do you have any idea how many photos it took to get even this much visibility of the four pilots’ faces?

One of the hardest parts of the course is exiting the water without pushing. Transitioning from water propulsion using paddles or oars to wheel-based land traction means the wheels need to bear enough weight to pull the sculpture forward. Shark Week excelled.

“Can’t talk now—I'm riding a shark across sand in the middle of Baltimore.”

This should be in a caption contest.

Their prior kinetic excursions were:

When a freewheel on Mr. Trash Velocipede was torn off its mounting hub, Shark Week stepped in with the specific parts they needed. For this, the Judges awarded CAP Kinetic Best Pit Crew.

Friends School Shark Tank

From the Friends School of Baltimore came Shark Tank, a toothed mash-up of shark, tank, and amphibious human-powered sculpture.

Advanced design element: When Shark Tank entered the water, the hinged pontoons automatically pivoted outward. This elegant arrangement made the sculpture narrower on land, more stable on the water, and provided easier transition from water to land.

2019 was the Friends School’s fifth year:

The Judges awarded Friends School the Best Costumes award for teenagers wearing dress shirts and ties.

NOVA LabsMobile

NoVa LabsMobile featured five pilots, brightly colored pontoon barrels and pinwheels, and giant wings laser-cut from quarter-inch insulating foam.

We think this pilot may be flamboyantly pushing his weight forward for stability. Or perhaps flying over the handlebars with pointing fingers is a customary ritual at NoVa Makers gatherings.

In the sand they started out on their own, but needed pit crew assistance to compensate for low ground clearance and narrow tires.

At the mud, everyone got out to push or pull.

One of their barrel pontoons lost an eye on their way south, but otherwise the new sculpture held together well.

Jemicy’s The Cutlery, EGGsistential Crisis, Wassssabi, & Grillax

The Jemicy School of Baltimore brought four entries this year. The first was The Cutlery, with three fat-tire bikes mounted together.

When three bikes are mounted together, they always maintain perfect formation.

Note the pontoon hoops are swiveled up for better ground clearance.

Since fat tire bikes became commercially available, we at KineticBaltimore are surprised there aren’t a lot more of them in the race.

The coach conferred with Sister O’Blivion about the rules.

Actual human feet are prohibited as wheel chocks, so they mounted fake feet on sticks to use as chocks.

Another Jemicy sculpture, EGGsistential Crisis experienced the greatest trauma from DPW’s Merciless Bollard. At Federal Hill they were the fastest multi-pilot sculpture, ahead of the pack. As they rounded the northwest corner, they avoided the low-hanging tree branches by shifting to the right. They saw a lightweight orange traffic barrel, like dozens they’d passed on Key Highway. Trying to keep up speed, they expected to knock it off the racecourse. However, instead of being pushed aside by a swift nudge, the barrel concealed the unmoving bollard, which broke their steering column and ultimately ended their quest for ACE.

While the award for “Most Interesting Water Entry” often goes to the greatest water catastrophe, this year the judges awarded Golden Flipper to EGGsistential Crisis for getting the whole crowd to do the chicken dance, then succeeding mightily across the water.

Sculptures going for ACE have to carry all equipment with them at all times. EGGsistential Crisis needed their gnarly tires only for the mud, so for most of the race they were mounted high.

They swapped tires for the mud. The bollard-broken steering column was aggravated further by the mud, so the team had to quit the racecourse at Patterson Park.

Receiving the Golden Flipper.

Also from Jemicy, lightweight Wassssabi was first across the finish line, and with no speed penalties handily won the Speed award and one of only 2 ACE awards this year.

When trying to ACE, pontoon height is critical to ensure the wheels have traction to exit the water.

Receiving the Speed trophy. Wassssabi was so fast, even our photographers couldn’t keep up and missed it crossing the finish line.

Jemicy's other solo-pilot sculpture Grillax was raced by a veteran alumnus who came back to teach the next class. He won the only other ACE in 2019.

Jemicy has entered 66 sculptures over 16 years:

Jemicy crew and pilots bore thematic chefwear.

Fake Gnus

Fake Gnus sported 2 pilots and floatation shaped like rats with horns added and repurposed to gnus, held onto fiberglassed bamboo spars.

These gnus were extraordinarily stable on the water: large full-length pontoons had a factor of safety of at least 10, as they’re less than 10% submerged.

This Annapolis-area team won the Judges’ Fill-in-the-Blank award when their smoking dry ice nuggets alarmed the next team.

Gnus are also known as wildebeests.

We don’t know why Dylan from the PLATYPUS picked up their award.

Sky Hat

When Sky Hat first entered the water, the pilot gestured futilely with no apparent means of propulsion.

Then with a flourish, he pulled a folded wooden device out of his hat, and the crowd burst into laughter when they realized it was a paddle.

Pit crew helped at the mud.

The Dumpster Divers have raced every year since 1999, Baltimore’s first year:


Tröegenator was a rebuilt 2-seater horned bush-league Viking from Tröegs Independent Brewing of Hershey, Pennsylvania, who created a Kinetic IPA.

This was their third race; prior years were:

MC Hammerhead

MC Hammerhead from the University of Maryland Baltimore County combined a hammerhead shark and the hip hop artist.

Pilots wore helmets depicting a shark devouring the wearer’s head.

The shark was 16 feet long and made of recycled materials.

Later on the water, MC Hammerhead experienced sinusoidal compression.

Prior entries from the UMBC Kinetic Sculpture Race Team were:

Trail Trekker

Trail Trekker was an Oregon-bound bush-league wagon created by a new team in Havre de Grace.

Tick Tock the Croc

Tick Tock the Croc with 6 pilots, a sound system, and weaving back and joyous forth along the racecourse again was clear winner for the People’s Choice award, chosen by an extensive crowd poll by volunteer chickens.

The Croc seemed to take well to the Baltimore Harbor…

However, two of her fork attachments were severely bent by the water impact; this metal is supposed to be horizontal. Croc completed the day—cautiously.

Dry ice under overcast skies made Croc look suitable for Dickensian London.

Croc at the water exit.

This was the eleventh year this team entered, with the most recent 10 years’ entries consisting of a 6-pilot segmented animal:

Winning the 6th People’s Choice for the sculpture, and the ninth for the team.

Cafeteria Food Boys

Cafeteria Food Boys was a new team from Baltimore Creative Labs artist collective and Anything Wood & Metal.

They had snakeskin-painted floatation, but entered as bush-league.

They needed pit crew pushing even before Federal Hill.

Unfortunately, they didn’t make it past Federal Hill. Bigger wheels next year!

Mr. Trash Velocipede

A new team from Catonsville entered Mr. Trash Velocipede, modeled after Baltimore’s famous Trash Wheel family that intercepts debris in the Jones Falls river where it empties into the Inner Harbor (which had also inspired a 2017 entry).

The judges called it a “surrey with googly eyes” and awarded Worst Honorable Mention for being modeled after a watercraft but bypassing the water entry.

I Dream of Fifi

For her nineteenth race, the American Visionary Art Museum mascot returned as I Dream of Fifi in full pink glory with a fez and jangly scarf.

Back in 2001, Fifi was the only large awesome sculpture—but has inspired countless others ever since.

Jeannie’s green-clad evil twin sister Jeannie appeared, demonstrating evil by not helping inflate Fifi’s pontoons.

Humnan Centipede

Doctor Be Dancing returned to lead Humnan Centipede, expanded from 2 people last year to 5 at this year’s starting line.

At Canton they flagrantly mocked the 8% Total Body Wetness Rule.

At Patterson Park, they jettisoned excess to continue as two pilots.

This was the third go-around:

For their penultimate finish among sculptures, they were delighted to win the Next-to-Last award. (Yes, one on wheels arrived even later than the racers on foot.)

Sushi Roll

Brett and Brian of Alexandria celebrated one year since awake brain surgery by creating Sushi Roll. They were last seen in the 2007 Kinetic Race as Old School.

Pool noodles filled the pontoons.

This bicycle crossed the finish line.


From the St. Paul’s School for Boys came Wizard, a crab trawler complete with buoys, crab pots, and an operational crane.

From the front, they looked self-propelled for the steep climb up Battery Avenue.

From the back, you could see four crew pushing.

They opened the sides to paddle on the water.

There were 4 pilots inside, who could see out through the fabric.

For sustaining an injury, they were awarded Golden Dinosaur.

St. Paul’s School for Boys has entered five times before:

Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies began with the joyous New Baltimore Twilighters Marching Band dancers…

…and drummers.

Music For Everyone Lancaster Community Chorus led the crowd singing the national anthem and a medley of TV show theme songs.

When the Kinetic Eternal Flame failed to reignite, Jill raised the burning lighter and the crowd roared.

After an inspirational performance, Sister O’Blivion struck the gong to start the race.


Each year’s Kinetic Sculpture Race depends on community support. We thank the Baltimore City Police Department for working to ensure sculptures safely pass through city traffic.

We thank the Baltimore City Fire Department for escort and emergency medical services on land and water.

Station North Tool Library provided repairs for sculptures and bicycles.

Volunteers, Spectators, & Pit Crew

These people came prepared for the race.

You can help the 2020 race! Join the volunteer email list!.

The team

Photos on are brought to you by hard work from our All-Terrain Photography Team:

  • Margie Hatch
  • Derrick Dasenbrock
  • Johanna Goderre
  • Rich Wilke
  • Tom Jones, and…

Frank Conlan in his hand-made kayak.

Show individual pages
  1. Grand Champion: Pandora’s Hell Bent Kitchen
  2. Real Spacewives of Uranus
  3. Shark Tank (PLATYPUS)
  4. Park School Bachelorette
  5. Treez Nutz
  6. Marys-Go-Round
  7. Shark Week
  8. Friends School Shark Tank
  9. NOVA LabsMobile
  1. Jemicy’s The Cutlery, EGGsistential Crisis, Wassssabi, & Grillax
  2. Fake Gnus
  3. Sky Hat
  4. Tröegenator
  5. MC Hammerhead
  6. Trail Trekker
  7. Tick Tock the Croc
  8. Cafeteria Food Boys
  1. Mr. Trash Velocipede
  2. I Dream of Fifi
  3. Humnan Centipede
  4. Sushi Roll
  5. Wizard
  6. Opening Ceremonies
  7. Thanks!
  8. Volunteers, Spectators & Crew
  9. The Team
9/18/2021 4:08:58 PM   9/19/2021 7:36:15 AM   1:8   2:2   3:5   4:2   5:4   6:2   7:2   8:2   9:3   10:2   11:2   12:2   13:2   14:2   15:2   16:2   17:1   18:2   19:3   20:5   21:2   22:2   23:2   24:2   25:   26:   27:   28:   AllInOne:2
The Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is sponsored and run by the American Visionary Art Museum. is the volunteer work of Tom Jones.
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