Imagine engineering a quadricycle with a Swiss cheese canopy and processed cheese pontoons, and then constructing the contraption from the ball bearings up.
Now imagine navigating this cheesy craft along a 15-mile route that passes over land and through mud and deep water.
That’s exactly what a team of students from Sollers Point Technical High School did as one of among three dozen entrants in the 11th annual Kinetic Sculpture Race on May 2 hosted by the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.
Not only did the students perform all of the welding on the vehicle they dubbed “Cheese Racer,” they fabricated all the parts, too, including pedals, cranks, bearing housings, and ball joints. They even upholstered the seats.
The grades 10 and 11 Industrial Technology students initially created Cheese Racer for Baltimore’s St. Patrick's Day Parade and then modified it for the kinetic race. Carpentry students made the wooden frames for the pontoons; students in the school’s auto collision courses painted it; graphic students did the lettering; and culinary arts students provided lunch.
The Kinetic Sculpture race was the brainchild of a California visionary named Hobart Brown. He started the event almost by accident in 1969 after receiving a ticket for leaving his 5-year-old son's tricycle on the sidewalk outside his Ferndale, Calif., art gallery. The entrepreneur added two more wheels to the vehicle, plus other refinements that made the trike five feet high.
Though the modifications made the pentacycle too large for its original owner to ride, it was reclassified as "sculpture" and allowed to remain on the sidewalk outside the gallery. An artist friend of Brown's was inspired to craft a similarly eccentric vehicle and challenged Brown to a race. They told a few of their friends.
An annual tradition was born, and soon, similar races popped up all over the world. There are at least eight races still in existence: seven in the U.S., and one in Australia.
At the end of the day of racing, the students from Sollers Point Technical High won the "Engineering Award" and captured third place overall in the race.
There has been no word yet on where Cheese Racer will spend its retirement.
Story by Bana Miller, BCPS Communications Specialist. Photos courtesy of Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race.