Red Bull Creation: 72 Hours to Build a Crazy Contraption

[All photos: Kevin Lee, PCWorld]

After 72-hours of non-stop welding, machining, and wiring, 12 teams spent last Sunday McCarren Park in Brooklyn, showing off their maker builds as part of the Red Bull Creation event. The challenge: build creations to move the weight of a person (100 pounds) across 100-feet without any fossil fuels. Here’s what they made with little to no sleep, the tools on their backs, the scrapyards of Green Point, a New York Heat Wave, nothing to drink but Red Bull (ok, not really), and a fistful of creativity and ingenuity bordering on insanity.

23b Shop: 23b-ter Trotter

23b Shop put together a seesaw-powered generator with a video-game twist. As the seesaw goes up and down, it rotates half of a 10-speed bike connected to an electric generator. The power is used to power a string of LEDs on the side of the frame. Normally it just lights up blue, but 23b decided to include a quick-draw game. When the bar levels out, the two riders can push a trigger button that lights up the LED track in either red or green. The game goes on until one player eventually racks up enough points to win, and the lights will flash the winning color.

Buildface: One-Horsepower Open Sleigh

Buildface put together a sleigh dolled up in red and filled with Christmas icons like snowman galore, fake snow, and a red dinosaur. The whole thing is driven by an electric motor; it takes off surprisingly quick, and the driver can steer by pulling reins like you would in a real sleigh.

Hack.rva: Wheelie-Mobile

At first glance, Hack.rva’s build is entirely unbalanced. And it is, because it’s meant to pull off a wheelie once it starts. Hack.rva told me that their Wheelie-Mobile can pull off some terrifying amount of torque so it immediately starts tilting back.

The pair of shopping-cart wheels on the back stops the rider from flipping backwards but it can also be balanced by the rider. A rider with good balance can bring their weight forward and drive the entire thing on its center wheel. The Wheelie Mobile’s momentum comes from an electric motor rotating the dryer drum in the middle and the rest was built from scrap metal with a shopping cart seat, bed frame chassis, and treadmill handlebars.

Harford Hackerspace: Chill-a-Piller

Harford Hackerspace went with a worm motion using a truck jack and alternating braking. It moves by putting on the brakes at the back chariot while controllers drag the front section foward. Once the jack is fully expanded the front section brakes and the back moves forward to meet the front. It’s moves just like an inchworm

Besides the mechanical bits, the Chill-a-Piller is also built with a glowing cow, Victor 883 speed controllers, two 12-volt batteries, a 24-volt motor, and a horn to make funny noises.

i3Detroit: Swiggle Trike

Personally I thought i3Detroit’s build was the most impressive. The Swiggle Trike pivots its back wheels left and right to move forward just like how a swiggle board works. Pneumatic cylinders pumped up by the two tanks of pressurized carbon dioxide shift the wheels back and forth. At the back, there’s a photovoltaic spoiler, which creates energy just for its bubble-making exhaust system. There’s a speaker underneath, which honks the horn and blares an anti-theft alarm. Oh, and it has an airbag, too. See it on video...

Innovation Thirst: Play Power Pod

Innovation Thirst had the largest build at over 100 pounds, and it could carry four people--the most of any of the craft. It needs two people on its swings to power two electric generators. The energy goes to four motors, each attached to wheels with 360-degrees of movement. At the back there’s two 12-volt batteries to power Innovation Thirst’s self-made suite of Victor 885 speed controllers and the Wi-Fi remote that's connected to a wireless PC gaming controller.

Next page: A human-powered SMS printer, the Wedgie-Powered Vehicle, giant hamster wheel, more...

1.21 Jigawatts – Human-Powered Text Message Printer

1.21 Jigawatts is a hamster wheel, but with a twist--it can also print out dot-matrix messages. On the underside of 1.21 Jigawatts’ human-sized hamster wheel is an actuated inkjet printer. The printer is connected to a phone for receiving--and then printing--text messages. The paper at the front is taped onto part of the wheel and as it turns, pulling down the paper and supplying the printer with electricity.

North Street Labs

When North Street Labs rolled into their maker workshop, they were given a toolbox full of parts and a junkyard patch of scrap. Thus their toolbox electric bike was born. At the front, NSL strapped a front wheel with speed controllers of varying voltages and a steering wheel with acceleration controls. NSL told me that you'd hold down the left one for "slow", the right for "fast", and hold down both for "super fast"--think 70 miles per hour. The inside of the toolbox is used as a seat, and the whole thing stores itself--you can use front handle for roll-along portability.

Ruination: WPV (Wedgie-Powered Vehicle)

The first thing you might notice about the WPV is that there seems to be an adult sized diaper in the middle of it. That’s because it basically is--and it’s what powers the entire rig. To get the WPV moving, you need to jump and the two ropes holding the harness in suspension are attached to bike chains and the wheels. As the harness falls the ropes are pulled upwards, transferring power to the wheels, there’s also a trampoline to help the rider jump back up. It’s also steerable with ropes strung through the handle bar at the front wheels.

Effin Ladies: Human Powered Chair Lift & Beverage Chiller

Effin Ladies didn't finish their build in time. The team originally wanted to build a chair lift on a raising arm, but they ran out of time, money, and cable for a pulley system. In the end they put together a water-cooler system with a water tank sitting on top of the person-raising seat. The water bottle was fitted with a hose that led though an adjacent tank of ice and finally to a gravity fed tap.

ITP: Gezeble

ITP rolled out with some mobile Air Walk exercise equipment. Called the Gezeble--half gazelle and half bull--it looks and works just like a bike. But instead of pedaling you need to walk in order to move. The energy of your strut goes to two bars welded to actual bicycle pedals that turn the front wheels. See it in action...

Double Wide

Sure, this might look like a telecommunicating robot, but it’s really just a cool-looking bot made of scrap. And it can dance a little like a marionette-- it's suspended and moved via cables attached to two electric drills up on top. Click the photo on the right for a closer look.

NYC Resistor: Nautilus Terrestrial

NYC Resistor decided to go 19th-century steampunk with its maker creation--imagine, if you will, a hand-pumped railroad cart slapped on top of a bicycle. To keep the steampunk look, the team made its build completely out of wood and brass-colored metal. On the back-end of its ride, NYC Resistor retrofitted some brass lamps heads into a steam exhaust system fed by small fans and dry ice. Sadly, they don’t provide thruster-like steam afterburners.

Alpha One Labs: Alpha Wheel

Alpha One Labs brought in a hamster wheel set in a pretty elaborate dynamometer arrangement. A human hamster would get the main wheel spinning, so that the four smaller wheels it was set on would rotate and send power to the axle of the back wheels. Both the runner and front passenger can handle steering thanks to a bar that wraps around the outside of the Alpha Wheel.


Like 23b Shop,Techshop also brought in a seesaw, but this one can swivel, which makes the ride a lot faster and more hectic. It needs two people to get moving, but once it’s up to speed it’s like a dipping helicopter blade. Techshop also rigged some accelerometers to two Polaroid cameras to capture the rider’s expression once the spinning seesaw reaches it’s maximum oh shit speed. See it in action...


It wasn't actually part of the competition, but most of the makers here went through the Madagascar Institute. The team also left their fossil fuel and rocket ponies at home and put together some mechanical bulls with a facade made of old tires. See it in action...

Drumroll Please...

When all was said and done, Techshop took home the Team Choice Award, and 1.21 Jigawatts was crowned Red Bull Creation Champion. Who would you have picked as the winner? Leave a comment below!

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