Fourth Annual Blackerathon (2017)

Blacker’s fourth annual 24-hour Blackerathon kicked off on January 6, 2017 at 7:00 PM. Here are some of the projects:

Tool Room clean-up

Cleaning up and re-organizing the hovse’s tool room. (Photos taken by Talia)

Alex Reeves, Diandra



“Sew all the things!”

Learning/using sewing machines to produce a cloak, skirt, and shirt.

Carly, Ben, Bethany, Talia

??? (Brian), Carly, and Talia.



Playing the Ride on the Tesla Coil

Using a Tesla Coil assembled this year by Tyler M to play a MIDI file of the Ride of the Valkyries.


Brian (right) adopts a defensive stance in anticipation of being showered.

Golf cart 

Working on a golf cart using a salvaged cart base.

Jake, Francesco


Fruit Roll-Up “Gun”

Prototyping a candy-propelling device with a motorized wheel.

Aiden, Jake

Fruit roll-up wars after Snake Kits may never be the same.

Courtyard Planter

Planting drought-resistant, partial shade plants to liven up the plot of dirt in the courtyard.



Cotton Candy Machine, improved and upgraded

Revamping a cotton candy machine built during last year’s Blackerathon to produce more cotton candy rapidly.

Annie, David, Tyler M

Assembling the base.
Once the machine heated up, it took about 30 seconds to make a sizable cone of cotton candy.



If we missed your project or you would like any images to be taken down, please email us and we’d be happy to help.

The Third Annual Blackerathon

The Third Annual Blackerathon was a great success this year. After dinner the first weekend of second term, the dining hall was invaded by a moley bunch. Teams worked on projects through the night, and here’s what they came up with:

House tool checkout system
An electronic system consisting of an iPad and scanner for easy checkout of tools from the Toolroom.
Talia, Francesco


Misc. Sewing Projects
Sewing a pillowcase and a skirt in an attempt to see what our sewing machine is capable of.

Giant Origami
Making a large version of an Origami Lion

Corean Crash Course/Minimalist Cooking
What started as a quest to learn Korean in 24 hours, “got distracted by flour” – Connie
“Want to taste this? It’s whole wheat flour without all the stuff that’s in regular flour” – Meiburg
Meiburg, Choward, Becky, Lucille, Brian, Mayra, Mark, Connie

3D Printed Stamps
3D printed stamp designs, starting with a snake for the back of blue books.

Cotton Candy Machine
Made with a total budget of $25, this cotton candy machine is thriftiness and reusability at its yummiest.
Annie, Tyler, David

Hell Lighting
Adding a computer to the Hell Lighting system to enable more complicated patterns, will be mounted in Purgatory; fixing damaged lights
Tom, Diandra

Caltech Scarf
Finished knitting a black and orange scarf with a ironed-on Caltech logo.

“Death Spike”
Adding padding to the Gondor couch to make its “death spike” less deadly.
Hannah, Ben, Allison, Michelle

Bioshock the Interhovse

Blacker Hovse little interhovse this year was themed Bioshock. The lounge and dining hall were Bioshock 1 and 2, while the courtyard was the domain of Bioshock Infinite.
The dance platforms in the courtyard spread out to encompass the two trees in the courtyard. We had two “rope” bridges as part of it, and a double-decker section of the platforms.
Jeff and Jessica work on the platforms around a tree.


About half of the platforms are pictured here. You can see the rope bridges nearly finished.
We also had a giant angel statue in the courtyard, pictured here in progress.
The dining hall was made to look like the lighthouse from both games. We had a bathysphere, a giant bust of Andrew Ryan, and a banner reading “No Gods or Kings, only Man.”
The bust in progress and the finished bathysphere.
The Lounge was themed as Kashmir restaurant. We had tables with food set up, an old school projector showing screenshots of the game, a vending machine, a vita-chamber, various posters from the game scattered about, and a floor to ceiling mural of Rapture.


Part of the lounge, with the mural on the back wall and posters and projector pictured.


After Interhovse was over, we had a few dinners on the dance platforms.



Space Mining the Big I

Every other year all the houses band together to put on Big Interhouse. Each north house (and Avery) pairs with a south house to make a party in the courtyard of the south house, and all these parties are held simultaneously in one night.
This year, Blacker paired with Lloyd to have Space Mining the Big I.
Here’s some pictures of construction:


Brian making the electronics for the glowing crystals.


Frosh putting together the glowing crystals.
Catherine working on the dome that was going to be over the dance platforms.


Annie painting the dance platforms.
The dance platforms, mid-construction.
Putting the dome up.


More dome construction + Happy Milica
And here’s the finished product (all these pictures were taken the day after the party):


Dance platforms, dome, and DJ platform.


The back of the dance platforms.


More dance platforms!
We had a crashed spaceship in the courtyard.


A drill, for the space mining. It spun around!
Satellite, that also rotated!


Space Jellyfish, which we decided were the alien life on the space mining asteroid.


The mural was of a cave on the asteroid.


We built a sketchy mining card track in the lounge.


Frosh Project

Every year when there’s not a big Interhovse, the frosh get together and build something, with help and advice from the upperclassmen. The idea behind this is so that the frosh can learn how to use power tools and construct things, and also so that they can have fun and bond as a class.
Last year, the frosh built a palace for His Majesty Dhiraj, the King of the Lounge.
There were a few elements to the Palace – a throne room, an armory and dungeon, a moat, and a maze.


Working on supports for the maze.


The throne room coming together.
Preparing the dungeon.
Putting the final touches on everything before revealing the project to the hovse.
The finished maze.
King Dhiraj on his throne.
The finished dungeon (on the left) and armory (on the right).


One by one everyone in the hovse went to pay the King their respects. He sent his good subjects to the armory and those who displeased him to the dungeon.
The armory had some swords and shields.


The dungeon had a foam-bladed guillotine among other things.


Some got dumped in the dungeon.


Others faced the stocks.
Overall, Frosh Project was quite a success. The frosh had a great time building it and it seemed like everyone else had a great time enjoying it.


How to Build Your Interhovse

As you may or may not know, Little Interhouse is an party that each house builds and puts on once a year. Blacker’s Interhovse is always third term, and the hovse gets together to build something we deem awesome every time. This year’s theme was How to Train Your Dragon. We built our dance platform to be like the training arena in the movie, paper mached three large dragons, made two small houses, a giant mural, food worthy of the norse gods, and more. Here’s a collection of photos from Interhovse and its construction.

First night of construction, over a month before the party.
Building the dance platforms.


Safety Officer Yurko.
The important procedure of testing the strength of the wood through dueling.
Dance Platform Planning and Design 101 with Andre.
Catherine working on the support structure for one of the dragons.


Kit cloth macheing that dragon.
Both cloth and paper mache was used.


Mary painting it.
Kerry working her magic on the mural.
Moving the raised dance platforms.


Keegan working on another dragon.


Of course, the night we were due to paint the dance platforms, it rained, so we made Giant Fort the Interhovse.


The view from underneath. Almost the entire structure was painted under the fort.


Tots and Acid building a house.


Decorating the lounge.


Another paper mached dragon, hanging from the lounge ceiling.
The finished two-headed dragon in the courtyard.


Toothless! On the RA balcony.


The cutest sheep.


The food table (and finished mural).
The most delicious meatballs I have ever eaten. They took hours to make.
The finished Interhovse!





The two most famous projects that occur each year are Interhovse and Ditch Day, which every house participates in. However, lots of moles also like to also work on smaller-scale projects throughout the year. Here is a (very small) sampling of cool projects that I remember from last year:

  • Hellride
This annual tradition, peculiar to Blacker Hovse, is probably the most construction-intensive Blacker event after Interhovse and Ditch Day. In it, the frosh attempt to play Richard Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries” (which is strictly banned at Caltech except for 7am during finals week, or if it is played as part as Wagner’s entire cycle of four operas: The Ring of the Nibelung) for as long as possible as the upperclassmen attempt to shut it off. This is traditionally done by barricading the speakers in the all-frosh alley Hell (thus the name Hellride). There have been stories of moles going so far to shut off The Ride as destroying walls, breaking down doors, and once even shooting the speakers when they were mounted at the top of a palm tree.
After several clandestine meetings in the ASCIT screening room, we decided to take the traditional route and hold Hellride in Hell, since this had not been done very much after the renovation of the South Hovses primarily due to fear of excessive damages. After deciding on Hell (specifically, Robb’s room), we made Hell “frosh-only” by closing off the entrances with black plastic, and then started collecting materials as Robb emptied out his room. Among these materials was lots of tires and concrete:

The plan was to replace Robb’s door with a reinforced concrete block, with pieces of tire bolted to the front to absorb much of the inevitable sledgehammer blows. In this picture, about 1/3 of the block had been poured:

We also needed to barricade the window. This was to be accomplished with 4x4s and concrete. Here’s the form for the window defense; concrete was to be poured in later:

At this point, after several weeks of planning and gathering materials, we were less than a week from the event. However, the morning after these pictures were taken, a Housing employee walked through Hell and, suspicious that Robb’s entrance was covered with black plastic and a sign that said “Frosh Only”, peeked behind. Needless to say, when Housing found out that the room had been emptied of everything (including the door and window) except construction materials, 4x4s on the window, and a partially poured door barricade, they weren’t very happy. They told Brad, the hovse president, that if it wasn’t restored to its original condition within a couple of days we would be paying for it. So sadly, our Hellride was shut down by Housing. But we still held a makeshift Hellride that night, which was still pretty fun even though The Ride only lasted a couple of seconds.

  • Quadcopter
Russell (a frosh) was working on a quadcopter throughout last year, which he recently completed.
  • Rcandy rockets
Some of us decided that a cool project would be to make homemade rockets. Around this same time, Russell was building a quadcopter, and so our ultimate goal was to be able to launch these rockets from the quadcopter. But we needed to finish the project in time for our annual camping trip in the desert, since it wasn’t really courtyard-safe. The propellant was made from a mixture of approximately 65% KNO3 (oxidizer) and 35% sucrose (fuel). Due to the large sucrose content, the propellant is affectionately referred to as rcandy, short for rocket candy. Unfortunately, the project ran into more hurdles than expected, and when we tried to launch one during the camping trip the rocket’s nozzle blew off, resulting in the rocket burning up its fuel on the ground for a few seconds before exploding. We picked up the project again this summer.
Here’s the rocket exploding:

  • Exploding CDs
We were trying to launch CDs by spinning them on a dremel, and then flicking them off. While we weren’t able to make them actually fly, we did discover that if a CD with extremely high rotational velocity touches the ground, it explodes. Probably not the safest of endeavors, but incredibly entertaining.
  • Pressurized water cannon
A pressurized water cannon. Built before my time.

Hot Tub Party!

Every summer we put together our homemade hot tub in the courtyard. We fill it with hot water from as many janitorial sinks as we can reach with available hoses, and voila, instant party.

This summer we decided to utilize our gazebo left over from Interhovse. Somehow our hot tub pieces magically fit inside the gazebo, with only minor modification necessary. Classiest hot tub ever.


Last summer we had a surprisingly good setup where we pumped water from the hot tub through a hose that led to a set of refrigerator coils on the fireplace in the lounge. This heated the water, which was subsequently cycled back into the hot tub.

There were a few logistical difficulties, such as when one of the hoses popped off the coil and just started spewing water into the lounge. A bunch of us were sitting in the courtyard at the time, and someone walked out of the lounge and asked “is there any particular reason the lounge is being flooded?” Cue everyone freaking out and rushing inside to carry all the now-soggy furniture out of harm’s way. (We even managed to save the rug; thank goodness, it really tied the room together.)

Unfortunately we seem to have misplaced our refrigerator coils, so no automatic heating this year. But I do think the gazebo is an upgrade.

For ages, people have been talking about building a slide from a second story balcony into the hot tub. Maybe next year.