The day opens with a persistent drizzle, just to remind us that we are in Half Moon Bay not Shangri-La. As is the tradition on the last day of camp, we pack everyone up and strip the beds – the longer it takes, the less time we have to fine-tune the race vehicles, so it only takes 30 minutes to get the Ranch House packed up. Then, we are off to the races!
The race course starts at the gate before the barn, runs down the hill to the Ranch House turn-off, around a pylon, and then downhill again to the finish line at the Conference Center turn-off. With a vertical drop of almost 150 feet (50 meters), the walkthrough of the track generated quite a bit of trepidation. The track is roughly divided into two zones; Zone 1 extends from the start gate to the corner of the Children’s Garden just after the hairpin turn, Zone 2 goes from the end of Zone 1 to the turn off to the Ranch Office, and Zone 3 continues from there to the finish line at the Conference Center turnoff. The rules say that any tokens left over from the build can be spent to pay fines or subtract five seconds from a team’s best race time.
First on the course, Althea in her team’s chopper-styled racer (with a variation on the traditional Tinkering School Harley-style steering solution).
Next up, Gabriel on his team’s puppy-styled upright racer.
Looking like a cross between a motorcycle and a bulldog, the only major flaw in this design is that due to the single contact point with the steering column, the backend picks up a wicked shimmy once the vehicle is up to speed.
Moments later, Gil flies by mere inches off the ground in the Panda’s USS Pandaprise.
Like each of the racers before him, he has insufficient turn radius (partly due to the foot-pegs) and takes a single-token penalty in Zone 1 adding a five second penalty to his race time.
Closing out the first heat, Mica drags their recalcitrant beast through Zone 1 (picking up a penalty).
But the beast settles down on the straight stretch and starts to pick up speed in Zone 2. Later in Zone 3, the steering will fight her off the track and she will pick up another penalty.
In the second heat, Althea, looking like she’s got her vehicle dialed in, sails through Zone 1 (still picking up a penalty on the hairpin) with better speed.
Gabriel chooses his line more carefully and almost makes the hairpin on this pass. The racers are definitely getting better at navigating this track.
Number three in the lineup, Glynn takes the dangerously fast USS Pandaprise down the track.
“Keep your feet up!” yells Gil from the sidelines, adding, “Don’t let them touch the ground!”
After a team pow-wow, and careful review of the rules, the Nooi decide that that there is nothing that says they have to have a vehicle – but there is a clear statement that it must have two wheels and the racer must have helmet and gloves.
Later, at the awards ceremony, the Nooi are granted a one-second bonus for effort and creativity which puts them tied for third place with Gabriel and his team’s puppy-shaped racer. Althea and her team take second with their Harley-styled bike, and Gil’s first run on the USS Pandaprise still stands as fastest official time (an unofficial run with an adjusted position on the hairpin pylon yielded the fastest time of 41 seconds to run the .2 mile track from top to bottom for an average speed of 17.6 mph).
In first place, USS Pandaprise.
Tied for third place:
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the 2013 Seniors class of Tinkering School – a mighty fine bunch of hard working tinkerers!