Power tool racing event brings unusual contraptions to the finish line in Lynchburg

[News & Advance}

Affixed to boards and wheels and decorated with dinosaurs and famous works of art, common power tools underwent serious conversions to take part in a race at Sunday’s Lynchburg Mini Maker Faire.

Part of Science Days at Randolph College, the power tool racing event was the brainchild of David Neumeyer, a board member of the James River Council for the Arts and Humanities. The council organized the competition with the help of Vector Space, which helped contestants build their vehicles.

“The noise, the speed, the artistic creation, that was all a lot of fun for the kids,” Neumeyer said.

Neumeyer read about power tool racing 10 years ago and the idea stuck with him. He decided the event would fit at the Mini Maker Faire because it’s “people making use of tools in creative ways.”

Power tools turned into racing vehicles included a saw, a sander, a router and more.

Grant Wheeler, age 4, helped his dad, Noah, with a power tool project that raced all the way to first place in the speed category. Grant named his colorful and victorious vehicle Sandosaurus Rex.

“It’s made out of roller skate wheels, a belt sander, one Transformer toy and one dinosaur puppet,” Grant explained.

His dad, Noah, said they had attached an old roller skate to a wooden base, wired on a belt sander, then taped and glued a Transformer and a dinosaur head to the power tool to complete the look.

The Wheeler’s winning project earned them a trophy created with a 3D printer and spray paint.

Several adults got in on the fun, fielding their own power tool racing contraptions.

Neumeyer partnered with fellow James River Council for the Arts and Humanities board member as part of Team Screan, fashioning a power saw-skateboard combination topped with a figure resembling “The Scream,” a famous 19th-century painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.

“I really wanted it to reflect an important piece of art that everybody would be familiar with,” Meadows said.

The power tool racing event was put on by the James River Council for the Arts and Humanities with the help of Vector Space, a nonprofit organization that offers a worksite for tinkerers. On March 3, Vector Space hosted a Build Day, opening up its resources to power tool racing participants. Racers provided their own materials for the vehicles and borrowed Vector Space tools and expertise.

The vehicles were required to be handheld power tools — though one participant opted for a blow dryer — with a standard 110 volt power source. The racers then plugged in their creations using 100-foot-long power cords and sped down the 12-inch- wide, 75-foot-long wooden run laid out on Randolph’s lawn. Hay bales created a safe stopping point. Those handling power tools were required to be 18 or older, but younger participants were happy to flip the switch to start their engines.

Registration was $25 per team and six groups participated altogether.

Neumeyer said the goal of the event was to allow kids to create something new and do so with artistic flair. He described the build as chance to learn about art, creativity and safety all at once.

It also was a chance for kids and parents to come together on a passion project.

“We wanted the opportunity to have kids and parents building something together,” Meadows said. “A lot of people got very crafty with it.”

Power tool racing was part of a larger event celebrating the maker movement through creative entrepreneurs, artisans, and hobbyists. The Maker Faire featured wood workers showing off their wares and techniques, laser cutting, sewing, Hill City Homebrewers, and other creative efforts.