Chris Krug’s vehicle parked in the middle of Broad Street on Saturday looked much like any other black minivan. Then the side and rear doors opened hydraulically to reveal a helicopter engine.
Moments later, smoke poured from the engine and was quickly accompanied by a burst of flames. The heat singed a few leaves from the trees overhead.
Krug’s jet van was one of the creations on display at Saturday’s Super Happy Block Party, presented by The Clubhou.se, a downtown meeting space for tech professionals. It was held in conjunction with the National Day of Civic Hacking.
As attendees watched demonstrations of the latest technology such as 3-D printing, teams of techies gathered in workspaces to solve challenges issued by federal and local government agencies.
“What a hackathon is is you have a set amount of hours or a set time to try to come up with whatever the project is, so you want to develop that project within that set amount of time,” said Clubhou.se co-founder Chris Williamson.
He said Saturday’s event was designed to bring technology- and science-minded people to The Clubhou.se to see what it’s about and hopefully attract more members.
Krug’s friends are members of The Clubhou.se, and he is interested in technology. He reconfigured the minivan five years ago, after he and his family used it for a vacation to New York. He said he has always enjoyed drag racing and wanted to have an exhibition vehicle.
“I can’t do 200 mph (like jet cars) but I can do burnouts and I can back up and go again,” he said.
He also rode around Saturday on a motorized bicycle he built for using in the pits at the drag strip.
Much of the event was rained out, but by mid-afternoon, several demonstrations were set up under tents outside. Guests made buttons, took photos that were texted to them and sipped beer.
Williamson operated a racetrack for dragsters powered by carbon dioxide. He has been working with the Young Makers, a group of 8- to 17-year-olds who meet at The Clubhou.se twice a month, on the dragsters for the past two months.
“We’ve taught them about mechanical design, aerodynamics, timing systems, a little bit about electronics,” he said. “We’ve just come out here to have fun, launching the cars down the track and see whose is the fastest.”