Hi, it’s me! Isabella – the intern. Usually Kyle writes the blogs, but for now, I’ve been tasked with describing our adventures. And such adventures! We had a blast at Maker Faire Orlando back in the first weekend of November – my first event out with the bot. This was the first time I was going to be face to face with the public as a member of Team HyperShock. It was a little daunting, I’m not going to lie! The team has such loyal and enthusiastic fans (I mean, kids were dressing up as Will Bales for Halloween!), and here I am, no STEM background, no one knows who I am, really, and I’m meant to represent us – It’s enough to make anyone feel like a bit of an impostor.
Luckily I was given a cheat sheet of our most encountered questions and comments. These do in fact come up again and again during the weekend; What does the bot weigh? How fast does the spinner go? I answered these tentatively in the beginning, and ended up confidently rattling off bot facts like a pro. The most common exclamation as people near our booth was, of course, “Wow, the bot is so much bigger than I thought!”. I don’t blame them. When you see these machines throw each other 10 ft into the air on TV, it’s hard to grasp just how much space 250 lbs takes up. We did get one guy who thought it was smaller than he expected. I assume he hoped for Sedan size robots (and now I do too).
We were tasked with bringing along Witch Doctor as well, so we had the pleasure of packing up both bots in the back of a minivan, along with everything we might need for the weekend and the team. A lot of people asked us if we were competing at the Faire. The answer was sadly no, there’s just not a box that’s safe enough to hold heavyweight robots outside of the BattleBox in Vegas. A few visitors to our booth reminisced about the last time heavyweights fought there – the box moved as they hit the walls, apparently. Maybe it’s a good thing we don’t.
This year we also brought an interactive element to our booth! We’re going to build a new flipper robot, VERTIGO.
We were going to get it done in time for Proving Ground at Destruct-A-Thon in Vegas on Dec. 9th and 10th. Since Maker Faire, plans changed, and we weren’t able to get it done in time. Turns out you need to do prototypes and can’t just wing a 250 lbs killing machine – who’da thunk?? Since we weren’t (and still aren’t) sure what the bot’s going to look like, we figured why not let the people (but mostly the kids) give their best shot! We printed off 100 sheets, just to be certain we had enough. To our surprise we got around 75 entries, many more than we thought we would. They ran the gamut of Pokemon-inspired doodles to well thought out and very artistic bids. Here’s just a few of our favorites:
Making the team pick just one winner is probably the hardest task I’ve been set since starting my internship. Even so, we’ve picked our winner here and they’ll receive a HyperShock goodie bag! We got several comments from parents about what a great way this was to engage the kids’ creativity. Definitely worth it to bring an interactive element to Maker Faire! It was also great to see how people embraced VERTIGO (helped along by our mascot, the Silly Little Guy). A side goal with VERTIGO is to document the process of an established team like HyperShock building a new robot from scratch. To that end we’ll be releasing a longform YouTube series showing the different aspects of bot building. This was also the first time we got to tell the prospective audience about it. Reactions varied from excited to “why would you do that”.
We also brought our three Giant Bolts along with us, and they garnered a lot of attention. It was surprising to a lot of people just how heavy they are.They’re around 35 lbs solid aluminum and very attractive to both kids and adults for careful lifting. Later, at our build weekend, Collin tells us they’re actually around 40 lbs. Sorry to anyone who felt weaker as a result when lifting them!). It was also an opportunity to show off a little, since Collin does all the awards for the show, which we’re very proud of.
Lots of people came up to get pictures and autographs. At first I hung back a little – after all, people don’t really know who I am, so I don’t expect anyone to want mine! To my surprise, several people asked me to join photos and autographs, ‘cause they wanted “the whole team”. I also had some really great in depth conversations about all sorts of topics (I spent roughly 20 minutes discussing linguistics with an exceedingly nice woman – I think we both felt we were keeping the other from more important things). Folks were very interested to know more about the BTS aspects of bot business (contacting sponsors, social media, customer relations).
Part of the latter is fielding answers to public queries. This year we had an exciting new answer for the question “How do I get started?”. At our neighboring booth, Andrea Gellatly from Witch Doctor launched their new kit: Camp Witch Doctor Build and Battle Box (available now!) I even got to drive some at the VIP event – it was clear how much thought had gone into each bot, and they were super detailed. I got totally slammed by the kids, as expected.
The kids really were the best part of the experience. I can see why the team thinks going out to conventions like these is the absolute top. My favorite is seeing all the kids running up wide-eyed to the bot, and practically falling over themselves when they realize we’ll let them stick their fingers in it (not the sharp bits, of course) and we’ll answer all their questions with complete seriousness. As a lesser known entity I actually had a great function at the booth. Because I’m not Alex and Will Bales there’s not as much reason to be shy about speaking to me, and as such I was a good gateway to get into conversation or a photo op with HyperShock’s star co-captains/drivers.
Several families showed up both days – these kids couldn’t get enough! – to see their favorite robot again and again. On the final day I had an especially cute interaction: I had spent quite some time talking to the sons of one family (listening to adorable chatter and generally employing my auntie experience), and apparently the youngest couldn’t go without stopping by to say goodbye. I almost got a big smooch! We compromised with a hug. All in all I loved it, and I wish we had another convention before my internship runs out.