Intern’s Corner: Creating the Spectacular Failure Award

Intern’s Corner: Creating the Spectacular Failure Award

For the second year in a row, MAKE got the honor of designing the Spectacular Failure Award for the wonderful Handcar Regatta, held annually in Santa Rosa, CA. Here, Make: Labs intern Tyler Moskowite talks to fellow intern and award designer Dan Spangler about this year’s objet d’castrophe. – Gareth

Dan Spangler is one of our amazing engineering interns at Make: Labs. He was tasked with constructing the award for the annual Handcar Regatta event, held at Railroad Square in Santa Rosa. We at Make: Labs packed our bags and headed out to Bataeff Salvage to assist Dan in finding what he needed, but also to familiarize all of the interns with exactly what a good salvage yard has to offer. Gregory Hayes, our photo intern, came along to document as we worked our way around the yard. There were quite a few items we each found interesting.

What inspired the design of your trophy?
I figured I could get some interesting parts from traintown such as some wheels, track, and other train-related parts. I was just going to use the wheel itself for the trophy. But when I went to Bataeff Salvage, I found a bunch of interesting scrap. I tried to keep an open mind while looking through the scrap. I picked up whatever I could carry and brought it all back to my shop. Then I let the parts essentially put themselves together.

What were some of the challenges in building the trophy?
Everything that needed to be cut had to be cut with a body grinder. It’s very rough on your hands because of the vibration. And it smells terrible because of the particles it throws into the air, and gets into everything, and makes everything black — your shop, your clothes, your face, your boogers….. For the fire system I originally intended to use a copper tubing and fittings system which ended up being far too expensive and obnoxious to use and didn’t work, so I went with a rubber hose setup instead.

What is your favorite moment from the Handcar Regatta?
My favorite part was firing my homemade black powder 64mm cannon into the crowd of spectators at the event, just kidding, well mostly. I packed it with a few pages from last year’s special tool review issue to demonstrate the muzzle flash for the crowd. It was a blast!

[Photos by Gregory Hayes]


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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn