Most Spectacular Failure Award at Handcar Regatta

Handcar-Regatta-Spectacular-Failure-Winners Geometer Insecta

Failing is the new winning. We’re not talking about not trying and failing, but rather having an idea, making it happen, and then having it not turn out as envisioned. This type of failure presents particularly ripe opportunity for learning, growing, and improving. There is not a maker in history who has not had their fair share of epic fails. Which is why when we were asked to devise an award to give out at the fantastic Handcar Regatta, we decided what better to celebrate than an honest, productive fail. Last weekend, we bore witness to the fourth annual Regatta in all its glory. This wonderful exaltation of maker spirit takes place on the defunct tracks of historic Railroad Square in Santa Rosa, Calif., with basic rules being that the race vehicle must be handmade, run on the tracks, and be human-powered by no more than four team members.

Last year, our MAKE Most Spectacular Failure Award went to the Delirium crew and their Sac Toe Ghetto Blaster for their die-hard efforts despite a vehicle that kept falling apart, and for their tireless optimism and huge smiles. (This year they were a last-minute entry racing a little red cart just for the sake of solidarity.)

This year, our award went to the Geometer team’s Insecta vehicle (team pictured above with the trophy, handmade by Make: Labs intern Daniel Spangler, who is at far right; Insecta pictured below). Insecta was an honest effort by a group of students from the Santa Rosa Junior College, led by instructor Michael McGinnis, inventor of Superplexus (check out his article on the making of Superplexus in MAKE Volume 20). Made as a class project, Insecta was a nice design, but one that hadn’t been tested on the tracks. Insecta ended up getting the slowest race time, revealing its engineering design fail, but presenting an awesome opportunity to learn and grow.


Aside from the amazing handcars racing, there were plenty more handmade wonders, including Dan’s homemade cannon, which he fired off at the beginning of the awards ceremony. (I’d love to give peeps in the first two images below credit, but alas, I know not who they are. Let me know if you do.) Look for more of our photos, all taken by the talented Gregory Hayes, being added to the MAKE Flickr pool.


I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at snowgoli@gmail.com or via @snowgoli.

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