Kinetic Sculpture Race turning STEM into STEAM

The Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race will get under way at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. Festivities will start at 8 a.m. (Courtesy of Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race)

Taylor Carito
Connector Editor

The once ingenious idea out in California to alter bicycles into something unique, kinetic sculpture races have managed to make their way across the nation. Thousands of miles away, Lowell has adapted their own race with nearly 16 teams expected to attend. A combination of engineering and art, the second annual Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race (LKSR) is getting ready to take place on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Founded in 1969 by Hobart Brown, a metal sculptor, the concept of kinetic sculpture races has been adapted and expanded for nearly 50 years. To bring art into a seemingly Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) exclusive event, kinetic sculpture races add color and creativity to their machine designs and the race.

“Aside from the science and technology and engineering aspects of it all and trying to make sure that they can, you know, actually make their way over cobblestone and go through a mud pit, and navigate the water, or float on the water, everybody is expected to wear costumes,” says co-director of the LKSR Michael Roundy. “Everybody is expected to wear costumes, you’ll see all of LKSR personnel will be in costumes. Costumes or a fancy dress in some ways or something just snazzy,” he says.

In addition to costumes, he says all machines have an artistic element or theme and are required to have a stuffed animal on them.
Roundy and Bianca Mouro, the other co-director, have been working tirelessly to create an event that celebrates science, technology, engineering, art and math in a fun and clever way. Participants are allowed to bribe the judges and marshals to potentially help them win. There are awards such as “Biggest Splash” and “Second to Last” that are given out at the end, and there is even a “People’s Choice” award where spectators vote for the winner.

Teams who are participating in the race include Rogers STEM school in Lowell, where fifth and sixth graders attended a summer school to build their machine, and UMass Lowell has a team who is creating their own kinetic sculpture this year with the help of engineering alumni.

This will be the first time the team is participating with their own creation. The team name is the Rowdy River Rovers with a River Hawk themed kinetic sculpture. As the race approaches, the team is eager to reveal their creation and has been working tirelessly.

“Being part of the race is easily the best part after everything we put into it. It all basically builds up until race day. It gets a little more stressful everyday until the race happens, and once the race happens it’s a blast,” says Austin Wells, the Grand Pooba.

According to Roundy, the race is le mans-style, meaning that the pilots have to run to their machines when the race starts. “All the pilots start across the street and they have to run across the street to their machine, get into their machine and then race from there,” says Roundy.

The Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race begins at 10:30 a.m. with opening ceremonies featuring The Party Band and a cosplay group. The official race start time is at 11 a.m. and the mayor of Lowell is the official starter. Spectators are invited to come any time after 8 a.m. to view the sculptures prior to the race.

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