Meet One of the Teams for the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore
For 21 years the Kinetic Sculpture Race has been a Baltimore tradition presented by the American Visionary Art Museum. The public is challenged to create a work of art—a moving land/sea-worthy original sculpture—that is totally human-powered, pedaled, and engineered to travel 15 miles through Baltimore streets and neighborhoods to cheering crowds, bravely traversing all obstacles of sand, mud, and deep harbor waters. The race teams, aka “Kinetinauts,” are asked to problem solve, think green, and work as a team, while maintaining abundant humor as they vie for the Grand Mediocre East Coast Champion Award, in recognition of the team that finishes dead middle of the pack.
In 2018 we followed one of the participating teams, St. Paul’s School for Girls, a local high school. As part of a class called “Design Thinking,” which included students from both St. Paul’s School for Girls and St. Paul’s School, the high schoolers learned the skills they need to create a kinetic sculpture, including welding, carpentry and engineering. Their teacher, Stephen Hulbert, once worked on the crew for Fifi, one of AVAM’s most popular participants in the race.
This year’s theme is “Mysteries and Tall Tales,” inspired by the museum’s current mega-exhibit The Great Mystery Show. The students at St. Paul’s built two sculptures, The Mystery Machine and The Flying Dutchman, to fit the year's theme of "Mysteries and Tall Tales." They were each powered by two people with a team of backups ready to take over when needed. The previous year the team won the coveted “Next to Last” trophy, meaning they came in second to last.
Those not participating in the race are encouraged to watch and cheer on the teams. The race starts at 10 a.m. at the American Visionary Art Museum and you can arrive early to take part in Opening Ceremony and Blessing of De Feet. The Kinetinauts race past Federal Hill, through the Inner Harbor and over to Canton where they enter the harbor, then through a sand pit and uphill mud pit in Patterson Park and then back to the museum.