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Tinkerers come up short at hometown inventor convention

Brooklyn Daily

Brooklyn lost its shot at do-it-yourself domination.

Three teams of borough software designers and hackers more akin to MacGruber than MacGyver fought a good fight, but ultimately lost a three-day DIY contest that separated the big brain inventor from the tiny tinkerer.

The three teams faced off against 13 others from across the country in a first-of-its-kind showdown, where contestants used pieces of scrap — and their ingenuity — to craft unique inventions.

The winner of the contest, held at Newtown Barge Park in Greenpoint earlier this month, received just what all inventors dream of — $10,000 in tools.

Contest organizers only had one directive: whatever is made had to be a form of human transportation.

“You make do with what you can find,” organizer Jason Naumoff said at the July 7 kick-off, as teams scurried around carrying broken bikes and 55-gallon rusted drums.

Red Bull sponsored, and fueled, the 72-hour marathon, aptly called “Red Bull Creation” — a tinker-palooza which culminated in a big unveiling of the final projects at McCarren Park.

Brooklyn’s own Buildface undraped a motor-powered sleigh adorned with a sun-bleached plastic snowman that hit breakneck speeds — but was difficult to control.

“It’s a lot more ‘Junkyard Wars’ than I was anticipating,” said Buildface member John McCann.

Buildface said it was up for the three-day challenge, even if the team was outnumbered by inventors who knew how to tack weld.

The team’s lack of experience with the tools that contest sponsors provided put the nail in Buildface’s coffin.

“It was a lot of getting something working, breaking it, putting it back together and breaking it,” McCann explained.

The two other Brooklyn-based teams, NYC Transistor and Alpha One Labs, had decent showings, but failed to impress the judges.

NYC Transistor, a Boerum Hill hacker collective, built a modern, “steam punk” railroad pushcar with plywood, but had to work through the night to get the cart in motion.

“Sixty-four people were working like crazy in the middle of the night,” NYC Transistor member Caterina Motta recalled. “It was anarchic.”

Alpha One Labs built a giant human-powered hamster wheel. It was a crowd favorite, but couldn’t beat contest winner 1.21 Gigawatts’ invention — a giant human-powered hamster wheel that could receive and print out text messages as it rolled.

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