Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment San Francisco

“The best part of the name Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment, is the ‘Experiment’ part, because it allows us to do pretty much anything with the event” says founder Brook Banham.  Started in 2012, the event changed significantly when Frank Schwartz and AACS came on board in 2014.  Over the past few years the event has evolved from a small local get together to an evening party held during the Detroit and Los Angeles International Auto Shows and the SEMA event in Las Vegas.  For our first San Francisco event the team behind the Sketchbattle joined with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and The Transportation Research Board (TRB) to bring the live design competition to the engineers and policy makers attending the Automated Vehicles Symposium.6X9B8922


The Sketchbattle competition features rounds where the contestants sketch a pre-determined theme for a set time live in front of the audience.  After each round the sketches and designs are hung on a display wall and evaluated by the judges for sketch quality and adherence to the given theme.  Based on their scores, the judges then eliminate half of the contestants, who then move on to the next round.  In the Championship Round (final round), the score cards are reviewed and a single winner is chosen who is awarded the cash prize, a title belt, and is paid to attend the annual championship held in Detroit in January.6X9B8240

For the Automated Vehicle Symposium, the theme for the first round was to “Design a Taxi for 2050” and was sponsored by Middlecott Design, Detroit, MI.  The theme was purposely vague so that the contestants could stretch their imaginations.  In honor of keynote speaker Elaine Chao, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, AACS sponsored the Championship Round.  The theme was based on one of Ms Chao’s previous speeches where she lamented that all autonomous vehicles were being designed for city use.  The Championship Round theme was to design an autonomous vehicle for long commutes in Montana.  The target family included a typical family unit of 2 parents and 2 children, where the main breadwinner was a manager in the constriction business.  They commute from their rural home to Billings, a trip of over 30 minutes each way, and also has to visit remote job sites on a regular basis.




TIM KENTLEY-KLAY: Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of ZOOX
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Tim is a hands-on, creative entrepreneur who founded renowned Australian design and entertainment studios XYZ, Crayon, and Wheelbarrow to get the ideas out of his head and into the world. As an animator, director, troublemaker, and thinker, Tim’s hard-wired curiosity drives him with courageous teams to pioneer creative projects that live at the vanguard of invention. Presently based in Silicon Valley, he is a co-founder, and Chief Executive Officer leading Zoox—a robotics startup developing an advanced mobility experience that will improve connection between people and the environment we share.


CHRIS STOFFEL: Engineering Studio Lead at ZOOX
We are greatly appreciative of Chris who stepped in at the last minute to replace another judge who was called away on a family emergency.  A graduate of the California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Chris has a long history of SAE and motorsports.  Previously jobs include stops at Honda Research & Development, Tesla and Google before landing at ZOOX, where he leads the integration of engineering and design in order to develop the most capable vehicle possible.


CHIEF JUDGE – ALIKHAN KULJANOV: Director of Design at SF Motors
Originally from Uzbekistan, Ali was a professor of Design at the College for Creative Studies and Lawrence Technological University.  He also had career stops at General Motors and Opel, where he was the lead designer for the Cadillac Escalade and XT4 interiors.  In addition to his current role at SF Motors, Ali is also the founder of AllTheSketches, a reference resource for designers and design students.


Arin Singh/Academy of Art/USA

Chris Corrado/Academy of Art/Boston MA

Joseph DeLaRiva/Academy of Art/San Jose CA

Andrew Sung Su Kang/Academy of Art/SOUTH KOREA

Philip Tandio/Academy of Art/INDONESIA

Juan Manuel Tellez/Academy of Art/COLUMBIA


Aaron Hughes/Hughes Design/College for Creative Studies/ Salt Lake City UT
Growing up next to an air force base meant Aaron began his artistic journey drawing all kinds of airplanes and spacecraft. During High Scheel he attended a summer program at Otis Parsons College of Design and fell in love with idea of going to art college.  Aaron has worked with teams to design products for Nike, Microsoft, HP, Samsung, Calloway, among others, and has been focusing his efforts to start his own design studio.

Alejandra Castelao/MAST Design/College for Creative Studies/MEXICO
Originally from Mexico, Alejandra (Alex) came to the US in 2010 to enroll in the MFA program at CCS.  She then worked in Michigan before moving to San Francisco and working at noted design firm frog.  In her younger years, she once managed to escape a police car chase through the streets of Mexico City.  She now claims she drives like a grandma.

Chris Greazel/Greazel Design/Art Center/Fullerton CA
Starting out in the ’90s taking night classes at Art Center, by 2001 Chris was leading a design team for a supplier studio whose exclusive client was Harley-Davidson Motor Company. This led Chris to eventually found his own design firm for the powersports industry. Today Chris is a freelance consultant, designing cars, big rigs, and even starships for online games.

Nyko de Peyer/DesignDriven/Lehigh University/San Franciso CA
Nyko describes himself is a “Swiss Army Knife Designer” and can take on a lot of tasks with a diverse skillset, on short notice. He has had the unique opportunity to work on some truly innovative projects such as the Dominos Delivery Expert, the Local Motors 3D Printed cars and the Rally Fighter.


Ryan Goimarac/McLaren Engineering/College for Creative Studies/COLUMBIA
Ryan was in Colombia south America, but raised in the States.  He holds 3 degrees (Bachelors for Animation in movies and video games, Bachelors for Automotive design and an associates for Industrial/product Design).  His father’s 1971 Mach 1 fueled his automotive passion and his dream is to design cars.

Sam Diaz Romo/Freelance Designer/Acadamey of Art/San Francisco CA
Sam is a graduate of the Acadamy of Art University and has worked with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, PSA (Peugeot) and Volvo Trucks.  He is currently a freelance designer and instructs at his alma mater.


For the first round the sketchers were asked to develop a design for a taxi circa 2050.  With 12 contestants, the range of designs and concepts was pretty broad, as to be expected.


After the judges conferred and scored the sketches, 3 Students and 3 Professionals were awarded the wins and moved on to the 2nd round.  It was also interesting that of the 6 finalists, 3 were from the United States and 3 were from outside the borders.  In no particular order, Alejandra Castelao, Joseph Delariva, Sam Diaz Romo, Ryan Goimarac, Arin Singh and Philip Tandio were chosen to sketch.Picture1

For the Championship Round, the six remaining contestants were given 45 minutes to develop and sketch an autonomous vehicle for rural use.  And here are the results.


This was the 13th Middlecott Cketchbattle Experiment and I cannot remember a time when the judges had a more difficult time choosing a winner.  3 contestents were in the running, and after a full 30 minutes of dicussion, the judges unanimously chose the winner, Philip Tandio, a student at Academy of Art and the first winner from Indonesia.

6X9B8969.jpgPhilip’s conposition struck the perfect combination of sketch quality while still following the theme of developing a rural autonomous vehicle.


Philip walked home with a cash award of $1,000. a title belt from Mobsteel, a custom watch from Brazen Sports, and the Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment will fly him to Detroit for the January event to compete against the other champions from the past year.

6X9B8955.jpg6X9B9012.jpg6X9B9017.jpgLooking at the winners from the past events, here is how the current school championships are distributed:

  • College for Creative Studies = 5 wins
  • Art Center College of Design = 3 wins
  • Acadmey of Art = 1 win
  • Lawrence Tech School of Design = 1 win
  • Cleveland Institute of Art = 1 win6X9B9019.jpg

Thanks to our judges, Tim, Chris and Ali.6X9B8938

Thanks to our fantastic staff,without whom Brook and I could never manage an event.  Danny DeMags on video, Destiny as Ring Girl and helping the event run smoothly, Brian for taking care of our judges, Judith for all her work behind the scenes and our DJ Jason Howard.


Thanks to our new partners AUVSI, especially Mike Greeson, who was not able to attend the event, but without his efforts we would never have made this event work.6X9B8620

And thanks to our photographer Adam Parmalee.  Here are a few more shots but visit here to see the full gallery.

See you at out next event on Haloween at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.  Here is a write up from last years event Cars Markers and Beer on Core 77 and here is one on our Blog.


About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of CarFriend.me and Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, partner in The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment and serial entrepeneur. A long time automotive enthusiast, Frank started reading car magazines at the age of 8 and has spent 30+ years working inside the automotive industry. In his spare time Frank races with the Sports Car Club of America, spends time working on his numerous project cars and supports many local charities.
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