Breaking Away: Winning the bid and beating out larger schools, Vassar’s student-run Cycling Club single-handedly organized and raced in the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference Championship (ECCC) Tour of the Hudson River Valley. What began with a November presentation outlining the event and racecourse planned by Christian Rose ’07 and Peter Horn’08, was followed by intense planning, and eventually culminated in April’s race, which brought at least 50 schools and 500 riders to Vassar. The Saturday road race, which ranged from 10 to 98 miles, snaked along the Shawangunk mountain ridge in nearby New Paltz, and on Sunday, a criterium took place in Poughkeepsie. Despite its small size (the club welcomes anyone interested in cycling), the cycling club ranked in the top 20 in Division II of the ECCC and Horn became the first rider in race history to capture two consecutive wins in the annual Boston Beanpot Classic.
One Man Slam: For many actors, it takes years to perform the roles of 40 different characters, but actor and slam poet Daniel Beaty accomplishes this feat in a single show. Written and performed by Beaty, the explosive, 90-minute “Emergence-SEE!” casts the award-winning actor, writer, singer, and composer in a fast-paced one-man show that examines urban life, racial tension, and ethnic identity when a slave ship rises from the Hudson River. Praised by New York Magazine as one of the top three shows of 2007, the critically acclaimed play debuted last fall at the Public Theater in New York City. Beaty performed the show at Vassar in the spring, followed by a question and answer session.
Battle Bots: It all begins with a box of spare parts. Then, after nearly four months of brainstorming, tinkering, and testing, robots emerged, primed and programmed for the ultimate competition: a variation on capture the flag. This spring, 15 students in four groups went head-to-head with their mechanical creations, designed to capture colored golf balls and return them to their “home” location. Legos, wires, and a plastic Godzilla action figure all went into this year’s projects, as each team worked to create and program a robot that would edge out the competition. Fenced in by a square barrier, the robots whirred and churned like wind-up toys as they collected and deposited balls without any help from the students. The annual competition was developed in 2003 as part of Vassar’s Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory. The professors act as judges, deducting points when the robots capture their own balls and adding points for each goal. In the end, the winning team goes home with a shiny trophy.
Taking Off With a Bang: The Powder Kegs, an old-time string band that formed at Vassar, gained national fame last April when the quintet won the first annual A Prairie Home Companion radio show’s People In Their Twenties Talent Show. Hosted by Garrison Keillor, the contest drew nearly 700 entries, and the six finalists, including the Powder Kegs, performed live on the air. After 11,000 listeners cast their votes, the Powder Kegs were the resounding favorite. Three out of the five members attended Vassar, where the band formed in 2005. Combining traditional American music with enlivened tempos and elements of blues, folk, and rock ’n’ roll, the band’s unique sound—a combination of banjo, slide guitar, fiddle, bass, and mandolin—can be heard on their first full-length album The Seedhouse, which is available on iTunes. Or, better yet, you can catch the band during their tour, where they’ll play in New Paltz on October 20. Visit ThePowderKegs.com for additional dates and information.