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Kinetic Sculpture (big pics)

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  • Kinetic Sculpture (big pics)

    Over the Memorial Day weekend, I traveled up to the Eureka/Arcata CA area, partly to see this year's incarnation of the annual Kinetic Sculpture race.
    As expected, it was mayhem, and fun to be at. Sculptures must be pedal-powered over paved roads, sand hills, in water, and through mud. They must be self-contained: They must carry any flotation they use for the whole race, although it need only be in place when needed. Same goes for water motive devices. It lasts 3 days, and is 42 miles in length.

    Despite its decidedly artsy emphasis, even mechanical types can get their jollies checking out the construction and drive systems of the "sculptures". Here are several things that impressed me:
    Classical Nudes

    The "pilots" were actually wearing skin suits that had been carefully painted to produce the desired effect. Aside from that, the drive system was spectacular, although hard to photograph.

    The whole thing was actually built on a 4WD vehicle frame, including both axles and front and rear differentials. There were 6 nudes facing and pedaling sideways, 3 on each side. Two in front and two rear brought the total meat to 8 people. Everyone contributed to the forward moving effort, which required the extremely complex chain drive system shown.
    Here are the nudes pedaling up a sand hill. You can even see one of their crew accompanying them, exhorting bystanders to avoid the temptation of looking.

    Another impressive entry was by Duane Flatmo, who is a regular contender and a local artistic legend, with his lobster entry.

    Made on a tube frame, and covered with all manner of scrap aluminum stuff like muffin tins and such. The jaw, claws, and tails were all movable via hand-operated cables. Just making the large wheels would be a challenge. 6 pilots on board. It was very well made, and performed admirably both on land, sand and water.
    Here's a link to a short movie showing it moving up a sand hill. In the above photo, you can just see some of the foam pads that they tie-wrapped to the wheels to give them some flotation in the sand. Notice how fast the pilots are pedaling compared to how fast the craft is moving.

    Another thing that somehow really impressed me was how one team ( made some giant wheels. Not a simple task. They took some of that black corrugated-looking plastic pipe that you see getting buried for big sewer projects. It is smooth on the inside. Take two corrugations to make a rim. The cable spokes connect to the rim via eyebolts which penetrate the valley between the ribs. Rubber strips are pop-riveted to the ribs for traction.

    I've put a bunch of pictures up on Photobucket at
    so hopefully you can go look at the rest of them if you're interested.
    If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people?

  • #2
    I'm pretty sure the Nude vehicle was built by Mad Jack Williams. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is Evan's college roommate's brother's niece's first lawn maintenance guy.