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Aug 4, 2008

The Care2 FlutterFrog team is back from the Portland FlugTag.  They had a great time in front of over 80,000 spectators. Here is the update Care2 Editor in Chief, Robyn Hessinger, just sent to the team:

-----------------------

As a completely unbiased spectator (ok, totally biased, but that’s beside the point) - I have to say, the team was AWESOME on Saturday.
 
The tension in the air was palpable. Nerves, caffeine, lack of sleep, and excitement all mingled together as thirty-one teams prepared to compete for honor, glory, and the coveted grand-prize of a trip to Austria. All were fully engaged in the madness and mayhem known as the RedBull Flutag.
 
A gigantic bowl of chips and dip. Grown men in Boy Scout uniforms - really, one of them was in his mid-50’s - on a mega ‘Big Wheel’ (remember when you were a kid?). Teams with names such as Space Balls, Pink Viking, Greased Lightning, and a few too ‘colorful’ to mention in this email.

And then there is the brightly-colored, eco-friendly flying contraption with a giant frog’s head and a butterfly’s body aptly called the Care2 FlutterFrog, lovingly assembled in a San Mateo garage.

It is just after 7am on a cool, overcast Saturday morning in Portland Ore. – far too early for this editor to be out of bed and carrying frog costumes, silver pipe cleaners, and vice-grips (don’t ask, I’m still not sure what they were for) across a damp grass on a weekend morning.
 
Teams are already gathering in the ‘hangar area’ along the Willamette River and are undertaking last minute preparations before the official “Safety Checks” at 9am.
 
The Care2 team has driven 12 hours over the past day and half to get to the event, towing a U-Haul (superduper gas mileage, or so I am told) with the FlutterFrog on board. All are tired but amped up - part excitement, part apprehension (an impending dance routine followed by a 30 foot plunge in front of 80,000 people could do that to you), part RedBull (rumor has it Anthony downed five before any breakfast was consumed), and part espresso.

Alex is leading the team in the last-minute to-dos: adjusting the wings, adding more padding to the bamboo frame (a RedBull mandated requirement from the pre-safety check the day before – probably wise), and preparing the team signage (rock-paper-scissors for who had the best handwriting). Then a dry run of the routine, and a test run with the frogs to make sure they could run in their froggie feet (I am pretty sure Jeff won this one.).

The team next door, ASU PEN (Arizona State University Polytechnic Engineering Nerds) is scrambling for more rope and duct tape (Care2 kindly shared), their craft looking rather unsteady, even on land (note: sadly, their craft imploded on impact, not even reaching the 10 ft marker and I think they ended up quite bruised… ) while nearby Team Yakima (the bike rack company, not the Washington city) is looking vey organized with their giant Big Wheel – so organized, in fact, that it looked like they had just popped out of an over-sized toy box, ready built, and ready to go (note: they won the grand prize, more details later).

It is absolutely amazing  - the time, effort, funds, and in many cases, blood(literally), sweat (lots of it), and tears( really) – that have gone into these 31 floats. Built in warehouses, on rooftop workshops, and, as in the case of the FlutterFrog, Anthony’s garage.
 
Cardboard, paint, rope, foam, lacquer (ew – yuck), duct tape, hemp, and bamboo – the materials run the gamut. As do the designs, some pored over for hours by engineers (the FlutterFrog) and others hastily sketched out on scraps of paper or on cocktail napkins; some in construction for the past 10 months, others built (purportedly) in the week, or the day, before the competition.
 
But back to the FlutterFrog – green, tall, bright, wide, orange, purple, blue, yellow, and looking very happy and secure with it’s bright red, smiling mouth, calmly yet cheerfully resting next to it’s competitors.
 
It’s now 10am and hoards of eager fans begin streaming into the site, taking over the pre-flight area, and surrounding the FlutterFrog. The team was a HUGE hit with the crowd and handled their fans fabulously well.
 
The frogs/pilot/butterfly spent several hours before their flight (freefall?) posing for photos with enthusiastic kids and ‘grown-ups’ and answering questions for press and spectators. They were super stars!
 
And when it was time to perform, the team aced their routine. The crazy jumping, leaping , hopping frogs delighting the crowd while Allie excelled in her debut as the butterfly (with less than 12 hours notice, I might add).

After performing a perfectly executed song and dance entitled “Care2 in the Skies of Portland” (to the tune of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – great job on the song Care2 folks) the team ran across the pier, pushing the FlutterFrog with Alex ensconced inside, and launched it and themselves off the 30-foot platform. Yowza! (Or kowabunga?!?)

The FlutterFrog really did fly like a butterfly into the murky green (brown?) river and landed incredibly gracefully, especially compared to the other flying contraptions, which smashed and scattered across the water upon impact (youch that had to hurt!).  

The FlutterFrog managed to fly whopping 40 feet before splashing into the river.  I myself was personally quite relieved when Alex, and John-Jeff-Anthony-Allie, arose to the surface of the choppy water and made it back to land completely unscathed (Sorry Alex, a scratch on your hand not visible to the human eye doesn’t count. My advice: stay away from lemon juice for a day and you’ll be just fine.)

Scoring extremely well, the team received a 7 (out of 10) from each one of the judges. Whohoo! (Editor’s note: the winning team flew 62 ft. overall, and used a sort of hang glider on the top of their big wheel flying machine to achieve the final distance – creative, and allowed in the rules – but so not fair IMO.)

So while our team didn’t take the grand prize (yes, Chris and I stomped and protested briefly but in the end, we were good sports about it), they definitely won the crowd’s affections. And according to the team (and as you can see from Alex’s email), the entire experience was fabulous. In fact, rumor has it they are already talking about their design for next year’s event (I’m sure Randy is thinking ‘let’s find some more corporate sponsors’ after that last sentence).
 
Singing, dancing, running, flying, splashing, answering on-camera questions in soggy froggy costumes - and all of this on top of a very hectic build/redesign week, very loonngg road trip, and very little sleep (Anthony and John, please stop yawning… ). Pretty darn amazing.
 
Way to go captain Alex and Team FlutterFrog! You definitely put the Fun in Flutter, Frog, and Flugtag!

 

 

 

Care2 FlutterFrog Team

FlutterFrog Team: Three Frogs, a Butterfly, and Alex, the well-dressed pilot.

 

FlutterFrog

The FlutterFrog is admired by the crowd before its maiden voyage. 

 

The Crowd Waits in Anticipation

 The Portland FlugTag crowd waits in anticipation.

 

FlutterFrog Speeds Down the Runway

FlutterFrog speeds down the runway.

 

FlutterFrog Flies!

FlutterFrog flies!

 

FlutterFrog Flies

FlutterFrog splashdown!

 

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Posted: Aug 4, 2008 10:21pm
Jul 14, 2008

In celebration of our new logo design, and, well, mostly just to have fun, a group of Care2 team members has been working nights and weekends to create the world’s first “Flutterfrog.”  The creation will be a human-powered flight vehicle frog, with butterfly wings.  Not kidding.

 

The Flutterfrog will, if all goes according to plan, fly gracefully off a Portland, OR, pier on August 2nd as part of RedBull’s Flugtag.  The Flugtag, or “flying day” in German, challenges 31 teams to see who can fly their vehicle the farthest, with additional awards for creativity and showmanship.

 

As a significant portion of Care2’s software development has been powered by RedBull guzzling engineers, I can attest that this is a potent combination.  The Care2 team is headed by software engineer Alex Feinberg, who is backed up by a flight crew of four:  head of customer service Kristen Atkinson, software engineers Anthony Duerr and John Wyles, and operations engineer Seth Reid.  Additional members of the Care2 team have been helping craft the vehicle out of mostly sustainable and recycled materials.

 

The Flutterfrog is being developed in Anthony’s garage. It’s still unclear whether he volunteered this space out of a spirit of charity, or to get the rest of the team to clean up what was arguably a cluttered mess.  Regardless, development is well underway, and has involved lots of bamboo, substantial use of power tools and much merriment.

 

Flutterfrog

 

 

The local press got wind of the story over the weekend. For more on the story see here.

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Posted: Jul 14, 2008 5:23am

 

 
 
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of Care2.com or its affiliates.

Author

Randy Paynter
, 1
Hillsborough, CA, USA
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