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Honey, I Shrunk the Kinetic Sculpture Race! 2021 Report

An annual tradition in Baltimore since 1999, the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race is produced by the American Visionary Art Museum. Like so many other things, COVID cancelled the 2020 race. 2021 wasn't looking much better, but a scaled-back (and down) version was able to take place; "Honey, I Shrunk the Kinetic Sculpture Race" had teams submit 'smaller than a breadbox' sized contraptions to the AVAM, and the tiny obstacle course was live-streamed.

Screenshot of "Wrecking Bear" from the livestream of the minature Kinetic Sculpture Race
Nova Labs' "Wrecking Bear" on deck. Screenshot courtesy of American Visionary Art Museum

By Paul Chase

Nova Labs' history with the Kinetic Sculpture Race extends all the way back to 2019, when we entered the venerable Nova Labs Mobile, a five-bicycle phalanx exploding with pinwheels and crowned by a Pegasus with a seriously fearsome wing-to-body ratio. The sculpture was built, piloted and supported by more than a dozen Nova Labs members. Kinetinauts were Joe Miller, Curt Welch, Sam Winklestein, Shane Smith and Paul Chase. The support crew raced along on their own bikes all day, providing support, photographic evidence and (most importantly) helped all the Baltimore drivers not run us over - Margie Foster, both Lieselots, Fabiana, Jeanne Marshall, Theo Tan, and a few more - and there were even more builders who helped with the construction at the Lab! It remains one of the largest group projects that Nova Labs has accomplished - and we could use more people for next year!

For over 20 years the American Visionary Art Museum has bequeathed the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race onto the eager denizens of that ludicrously hilly city. In that race, human-powered amphibious all-terrain vehicles fly through the city of Baltimore and swim through the harbor for the sole purpose of art and inspiration. The race is held the first Saturday of May, including this year! What was new this year is that the race was run at 1/12 scale, nice and small, but more importantly it was livestreamed and recorded so that everyone can watch!

The event was livestreamed on Facebook, and you can check out the whole thing here (it's only an hour - you know you want to watch it!)

I also made a short video to help advertise before the race, including a few shots from the full-scale entry from our 2019 race:

While the build was smaller this year, the team was just as engaged! Kineticrafters (Kinetimakers?) included Jeanne Marshall, Sam Winklestein, Joseph Miller, Ryan Lahey, Dave Fritts, Shane Smith, Daniel Vrolijk, and Paul Chase.

We wanted a truly kinetic sculpture, with music - so this year's entry, Wrecking Bear, plays the song Wrecking Ball, while its titular bear repeatedly removes his head in, um, appreciation? The front ball-wheel was a great way to demonstrate how dirty and abrasive the Nova Labs carpet is, too! In all, we had a great time with a quick build.


Did you check out the end of the livestream? Nova Labs won the Pint Sized Engineering Award!!! Even though we kinda… turtled on the water, the AVAM judges loved the music-playing and bear dancing!


So next time you’re at Nova Labs, be sure to check out our tiny sculpture and tiny trophy! We’re already plotting our sculpture for 2022! Visit the #Kinetic-Sculpture channel on Slack to see the latest developments!

Enjoy some photos of the building and testing of Wrecking Bear. Photos from Paul Chase.

"Wrecking Bear" starting the race.
Starting the race. Screenshot courtesy of American Visionary Art Museum

Wrecking Bear entering the water obstacle.
Entering the water obstacle. Screenshot courtest of American Visionary Art Museum

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