Platypus Rex at daVinci Days 1996

The race is over and we did it! We got a Leo award for completing the race without breaking down or being pushed.

The Contestants:

This race attracted almost twice as many contestants as the largest past race. The most we had in the past was 13. This year there were 24. (In spite of that, the logistics were very smooth.) This was the first year the Corvallis race included school entries, and we got two. Sweet Home provided a high school team and a grade school team. Everybody was delighted to see that. There was an unusually large contingent of California racers. The Eureka area is always well represented, since that is the world center for Kinetic Sculpture racing. Washington was also well represented with their very high spirited clan.

The Race:

Road Race:

At least one vehicle crashed here, in this case literally. The high school team inherited the old Stone Hinge machine that IJBU created several years ago. It was a disaster back then and it appears not much has changed. They lost control going down a hill and rolled it in a ditch. Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt.

A near loss was June Moxon's flower (sorry I don't remember its name). This is the vehicle that most people thought was a crustacean because of its coral color and lobster-like texture. Those huge wheels "disintegrated" on Bald Hill. June said they were riding along and then without warning they were leaning way over. The sad part is that she fabricated those wheels by hand, and it took her months of intense labor. The good part, as she pointed out, is that she was about to take this vehicle to the Australian Outback. She was glad it broke down here rather than there. Anyway, she continued the race on bike wheels. But they were not nearly as effective in many places.

Mud Bog:

I haven't seen the final race report yet, but I think about 1/3 of the vehicles failed to get thru the mud. This was regarded as the hardest mud bog we have ever created. I, for one, think it was excellent mud. They used a road grader to stir it up before the race. It was an incredible mix of thick mud and large pebbles. If the mud is easy to get thru, why bother with it?

lift the front of the vehicle to change its direction twice, but that is legal. We lost some of our lowest gears on the right side. Unfortunately that was the side that needed torque the most because it was slightly deeper in the muck. Our final sprocket and chain were totally submerged in that muck. But amazingly, they kept working. By contrast, Free Wheelie, Don's machine, broke down. Small rock shards got stuck inside the chain and prevented it from riding the sprocket.

Our vehicle, Platypus Rex just barely made it. Very challenging. We lost some range in our right derailer, preventing Brian from using the lowest two gears. That enhanced the natural tendency of the vehicle to turn right into the deepest muck. We ended up lifting the vehicle to turn it back left.

Perhaps because of the turning problem I mentioned above, our pilots didn't quite manage to take a course thru the easiest part of the mud. As a result they worked extremely hard to keep the wheels turning. We have exceptionally low gears, much more so than most vehicles. But at that point, it would have been nice to have gears even lower. Amazing!

Before the mud entry we pumped up our ATV tires to their max rated. The reason was to maximize their diameter. Our clearance of pedal to ground was barely adequate. When we got into the mud, the pedals were dipping into the mud. If we hadn't pumped up the tires, the pedals would have gon deep enough into the mud that they wouldn't have been able to move.

Don Reid, with Free Wheelie, says their secondary chain got filled up with rock shards, preventing it from staying on the sprocket. Even tho our secondary was totally under the mud, we didn't have that problem. Don't really know why, but I'm guessing its because of our chain idler. I noticed before their entry that their chain was a bit loose. Ours was plenty tight. And the idler cause the chain to do a flex that might have dislodged any rock shards that made it into the chain. Just speculation, but that's all we have at this point.

If the mud was deeper (as I have requested of the Kinetic Wizard) we probably wouldn't have made it. We were so close. But I figure that's fair. And I want to make some improvements next year anyway. Its good to have a challenge.

The River:

It seems that the grade school team provided some unintended entertainment. I have it from a reliable source. (How's that for a journalistic euphemism?) Imagine that you take about six grade schoolers, put them in a raft without any training or experience, and hand them paddles. The good news is that they used the paddles on the water rather than themselves. But it seems each kid used a different thrust vector. Somewhat miraculously they didn't run into any bridge pilings. And somehow they managed to get to the river exit. Good for them!

Platypus Rex had only minor difficulties on the river. The worst moment happened during the exit. The pilots forgot that only one of them can get off the pontoons and move back to the seats at a time. When they both jumped back in at once, Rex slid off the shore and back into the deep. They were almost swept away.

The Awards:


Art is so subjective. For instance, I've never understood what art critics see in "Modern Art". I guess that means I'm uncultured. I really prefer Renaisance art. To each his own.

Anyway, the winner of best art was June Moxon. Remember? She had the flower that most people thought was a crustacean. She got the same award in the California race.

Platypus Rex's art was weak. That's not suprising. From what I can tell, most vehicle's are weak on art in their first year. Beetlemania last year was an exception. Its art was fairly good.


The engineering judges criteria seems to be a little more clear. At least here is my impression of it. This is not about conventional engineering. When we perform engineering professionally we want to produce a design that accomplishes the objective reliably and with the least cost. Usually that implies that the design is as small as possible and uses as few materials as possible.

Ah, but the engineering judges in the Kinetic Sculpture races have different criteria. They like big. Monsterous! (The rules say they are supposed to look for things that move around, but do nothing to move you forward. But as far as I can tell that doesn't help in Corvallis.) Now, some of the engineering judges are OSU professors of mechanical engineering. I will let you speculate on whether there is a relationship there.

Last year's winner was Maltese Fulcrum, easily the largest and heaviest sculpture at the race. At 2000 lbs (empty) and with eight pilots, it may have also been the heaviest per rider. But that is only speculation on my part. We are talking about a machine that has to be completely stopped to change gears. Naturally that rather limits it top speed. But its big!

This year's winner was a monster of a vehicle from Washington. I'm sorry I can't pronounce or spell its name. It was the one with the huge plywood wheels. It wasn't particularly fast. But as far as I know it didn't stop at any obstacle. It traveled at basically the same speed on all terrains. Personally I am much more comfortable with this selection. It was impressive and effective even if it wasn't fast. At least this vehicle could shift gears while moving...


The speed winner was Woody. This is the vehicle that was decorated as a sphinx. By my criteria this is a beautifully engineered vehicle, but I'm not a judge.

I won't know until the race report is published how Platypus Rex did for speed. But I'm sure we were better than average. And I know we weren't in the top three.

Best Local Entry:

Maltese Fulcrum, the winner of this award, had much better art this year than last.

Overall Winner:

Ken Beidleman's Watermelon World took overall best. This is another very well crafted vehicle. It is well decorated. And they got a very good time. The minor point that they ran every stop sign and red light on the course may have contributed to their excellent time, but perhaps that was the right thing to do in this race. The rules say we are to observe the traffic laws. But I think there's something about the privilege of cheating also. Even without breaking the law, they would have had a very good speed.

The Future:

The Port Townsend, WA race is next on the agenda. That happens Oct 5 and 6. Good news: I have it from an inside source that the Rose Hips Queen Coronation Ball has been moved to a place that allows children. No alcohol, but who needs it?

And the future for Patypus Rex? Hard to say for sure. There are many minor improvements I want to make to the mechanicals. I think we would then have a good shot at third place speed. Two things for sure. Next year the decorations will be new. (We wouldn't want to do the same theme two years in a row.) And Rex will race again!

I have some fairly agressive ideas for the artwork. But ideas take time and money to become real. And at this point the crystal ball looking into next year is very foggy. But rest assured, there will be improvements. Rex will ride again.

Pilots: Brian Kahn and Philip Thoennes

Pit Crew: Allen Brown and Rod Inman

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Last modified 11 Dec 2006