After a year of design and assembly work, Johns
Hopkins students and staff members are
preparing to launch the Homewood campus's first entry in
Kinetic Sculpture Race, a
popular event that mixes art, athletics, colorful costumes
and light-hearted behavior. To this mix, the
Johns Hopkins team will add some interesting ecofriendly
and high-tech twists, including a connection
to a fast-growing social networking tool.
The Johns Hopkins entry, dubbed "Twitter Jay and the
Recyclists," will allow fans and
spectators to exchange brief Twitter comments, called
"tweets," with team members while the May 2
race is in progress. Team members also will be able to keep
in touch with onlookers via conventional
cell phone text messages.
While the race is under way, some messages will be
displayed on an electronic LED screen
mounted on the back of the sculpture. In addition, the team
members will record video, audio and GPS
data while the sculpture is racing, as well as the pulse
rates of the students who are propelling it. The
team plans to share this data with the Homewood campus
community from 3 to 6 p.m. on May 8 during
the Mattin Center pARTy, a celebration of the creative
endeavors of Johns Hopkins students.
"Building the sculpture was hard enough," said Nora
Krinitsky, a history
major who began organizing the Johns Hopkins project in
spring 2008. "Adding the technology
required even more work, but I think the way it's turned
out is really great."
The Kinetic Sculpture Race, launched 11 years ago by
the American Visionary Art Museum,
requires teams to construct a solely human-powered work of
art that is capable of traveling on land,
through mud and over harbor waters. The eight-hour 15-mile
course weaves along pavement through
Federal Hill, the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. The
sculptures must survive a dip in the bay at the
Canton Waterfront and a mud-filled obstacle course at
Participants and spectators often dress in colorful
costumes, and race officials bestow amusing
honors such as the Golden Dinosaur Award for the first or
most memorable breakdown by an entry.
Johns Hopkins students had never entered the contest
before, but faculty member Elizabeth
Rodini, who teaches museum studies, and Joan Freedman,
director of the
Digital Media Center, last
year encouraged Krinitsky to assemble a Kinetic Sculpture
team from the Homewood campus.
Freedman guided Krinitsky through the process of
recruiting students, securing funding
(through the Arts Innovation Program and a DMC Creative Use
and Technology Grant) and organizing
construction. Krinitsky was joined by seven other
undergraduates and graduate students from the
Whiting School of Engineering and the Krieger School of
Arts and Sciences: David Hung, Tabor
Barranti, Aasiyeh Zarafshar, Ian Lee, Josh Hewitt,
Stephanie Smith and Rebecca Shapiro. Yana
Sakellion, the Digital Media Center's visiting artist, also
The group designed the sculpture last year and sought
grants and donations of building
materials and tech equipment. A blue jay design was chosen
because the bird serves as the mascot for
the university's athletic teams.
Most of the construction was completed during the
Intersession break in January. In keeping
with an ecofriendly theme, the team used mainly recycled
building materials, including strips of blue
plastic grocery bags to serve as the bird's feathers.
Harvested bamboo makes up part of the frame.
The idea of encouraging "tweets" struck the students
as an appropriate choice for a bird
sculpture. The sculpture will move via the pedal power of
two bicycles mounted at its center.
Engineering students Hung and Hewitt are expected to be the
primary bicycle riders during the race.
Other members will follow as a support crew.
If the kinetic sculpture remains in good shape after
the race, returning team members should
be able to reuse it next year with minor modifications. "It
will require a lot less work next year,"
To receive Twitter updates from team members during
the race or to send them a "tweet" (140
characters or less), fans should follow "hopkinsbluejay" on
Twitter.com. Supporters can also send text
messages to the team on race day at 443-453-4012.
More information about the race, including the route
and schedule, is available at: