A cold, windy and soggy day did not deter the stalwart team of Friends School kinetinauts who braved the elements, stiff competition from almost 30 other teams, and a few engineering challenges to not only compete in but conquer the 19th Annual Kinetic Sculpture Race hosted by the American Visionary Arts Museum.
The story really begins last spring when Friends’ entry, a Roman chariot aptly named “Wasn’t Built in a Day,” collapsed in front of the Baltimore Aquarium. That setback put our team on a renewed and more dedicated path to build a structure that could complete the 14-mile, multi-terrain course. This year’s design team, led by Friends sophomores Pace Schwarz and Carter Ruffin, plus Christopher Field (the father of last year’s team leader Lucretia Field ’16), and Upper School Principal Steve McManus, spent many hours during the fall and winter months sketching, prototyping and researching Linear Algebra before settling on a design that would be both street-worthy and able to handle the mud, sand, and water. Our entry, “Oatmeals on Wheels,” showed a lot of Quaker pride and conformed to the race’s theme “Food.” On race day, we welcomed the heroic return of Lucretia Field, fresh off her first year at Northeastern, who baked a batch of fresh oatmeal cookies with which to bribe the judges Kinetic Kops, an accepted and expected part of the Kinetic Race subculture.
“Our race began successfully and we navigated the loop around Federal Hill and the cross country course around the Inner Harbor, passing other teams and only having to stop to remount our barrels a few times. The cobblestone circle of Harbor East gave our sculpture some trouble and knocked one of our rear wheels out of alignment, forcing Pace to dismount and run/push along for the last 2 miles before the water station. The launch into the Inner Harbor requires the team to navigate around the Canton pier and the crowd was entertained by our near-capsizing due to the fore and aft oscillation. A few mouthfuls of Inner Harbor water later, Pace and Carter changed into dry clothes, refueled with a soft serve ice cream cone, and we were off to Patterson Park and the sand and mud elements. The sand pit proved no match for our hearty kinetinauts now brimming with confidence and they cruised easily through that challenge. Only one element remained: the mud—a 30 yard long, 10 foot wide slurry of thick mud and grime on an incline. At this point, Nick De Vinne ’17 jumped on to provide fresh legs (and since Pace had to leave soon for play practice) and Carter and Mr. McManus provided rear thrust. Pace and Nick gave ‘Oatmeals on Wheels’ a 40 yard ‘running start and, despite Carter losing a shoe in the mud, we conquered the mud monster!” said Steve McManus.
The last leg of the race was a steady downhill course from the Patterson Park pagoda, down Lombard Street, and back to the AVAM finish line. Rolling through neighborhoods, many of which held impromptu block parties to cheer on the race, was a victory lap of sorts for our team. Six hours after launching from that spot earlier that morning, Nick and Carter crossed the tape, muddy, tired, but intact and brimming with confidence and relief. At the award ceremony, our team was awarded the “Judges Fill-in-the-Blank Award,” given to the team the judges deem “worthy of some award.” The Grand Mediocre Prize, the most coveted award, is given to the team that finishes smack dab in the middle. In a true illustration of the old bromide that much of life is “simply showing up” we were awarded the trophy when the first team that the judges wanted to give it to, did not even stay for the ceremony! Our Quaker pride impressed the judges, one of whom attended Earlham College and whenever he saw us throughout the race, chanted the Earlham College fight song: “Fight, fight, inner light! Kill, Quakers, kill! Beat ’em, kick ’em, knock ’em senseless! Do we really have consensus?” He liked our cookies too.
The Kinetic Sculpture Club will begin planning for next year—the 20th Annual Kinetic Sculpture Race.