Boats, Building, Crafts, Toys

“Fired Up” About Kinetic Sculpture Vehicles

06.09.09 | 2 Comments


Every Memorial Day Seth attends the Kinetic Sculpture Vehicle Race.  The participants ride human powered vehicles that cross pavement, sand and water.  The race takes three days.  It starts in Arcata and ends up in Ferndale CA. What could be more satisfying than pedaling your own work of art on a three day camp out?  Normally Seth is very excited about the vehicles and the experience, but this year he came back “fired up”.  Yes, this year there was a fire breathing dragon vehicle (Seth’s alter ego is a dragon named Badoor).  He has not stopped talking about it since.  Seth is confident that he and his dad are going to build a black and red dragon to enter in the race next year, and he is looking forward to pedaling in the front.  It is interesting that Seth naturally has a “maker mindset”.  The other day when I proposed that we go to the Maker’s Faire he said, “yes, and I want to *make* a fire truck sculpture!”  Daniel Beard has the American Boy’s Handy Book packed with do-it-your self vehicle ideas.  Given his pension for whimsy and ingenuity, Beard would definitely have been on the kinetic sculpture vehicle circuit.



“The old grandpa died, it’s sad, now a new grandpa drives it.”

The energy and spirit of this event is to be admired.  People work all year to build these vehicles.  Most of the rigs are created by communities of people.  The city of Arcata even has it’s own Kinetic Sculpture Lab.   Last year there were two young men in the race who made their vehicle in shop class.  They were high school students and their shop teacher sponsored the two boys.  They were the second to last vehicle across the finish line.  I spoke to their teacher and he said that part of this experience was for the kids to make their own decisions.  They decided to sleep in that day and as a result were a bit late to get in the water.  Not that it matters much.  There is an award for every vehicle in the race, and every team is acknowledged.


This is the spot where the vehicles have to make a sharp turn and pedal up a sand hill to get on to the trail that they follow through the dunes.  Every year Seth and company hang out here.  This is one of the more technically challenging parts of the race.  The whole point of hanging out here is to cheer on and encourage the riders.  As a spectator children learn about the human spirit, empathy and critical thinking.  According to Seth, “the dragon did not do well in the sand, there was a big bump and a black pipe to get over, very strong people pushed the dragon up.  Our dragon will be bigger we will need lots of strong people.”   I guess this  is one way to look at it, or perhaps he will watch repeatedly and note what works and does not work and build accordingly next year.

Here at the Boy’s Almanac we like the idea of our kids getting “fired up” about self reliance, sense of humor and good clean fun.  There are lots of kinetic sculpture vehicle races around the country that children can watch or participate in, Baltimore and Corvallis to name a few.  Go and enjoy, and don’t forget to bring the kayak, wear a costume and decorate your bike helmets my friends!


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