HEBOCON Coming Back to America - A Report of HEBOCON Bay Area 2017
Hebocon has once again came to America, continued from last year.
It has been 1 year since the last year event at America made a huge impact even though that was the first time I organized it at America. It also put pressure on this second time to have to be successful. You want to know how it was? Let's me report it.
1980 Born in Gifu. Making tricky and original devices of electric work, and collect music of frontier countries. Founder of Hebocon, a robot competition for those who don't have the technical skills to actually make robots.
What is Hebocon and the unforgettable first time in America
Hebocon is an event I first held in 2014, and its official name is "Robot Contest for Those Technically Ungifted". This is an event where people without any knowledge or technique needed to build a real robot will try to build their own self-proclaimed "robots", bring them here and let them fight together. This event so far has been held for 130 times in 25 countries. You can see more details in this video.
This is the Hebocon World Championship which was held last year.
Although it is said to be held all over the world, but basically the organizer of each place is free to do by their will. I did nothing besides seeing pictures uploaded for me after that, clicking "like" or making comment such as "this robot is great". Until now did I only hold this contest in a foreign country once, and that was in May last year, at America.
The event last year
For me, this is such an impressive experience. I could see in front of my eyes that the event I had started crossed language barrier and heaped up people from a foreign country.
This is an experience once in a life time that I can never forget in my whole life.
Actually, there is a second time.
After one year, I knew that that "once in a lifetime" experience is actually not just "once". In short, I could come to America again this year.
Here I am again.
The location is the same as last year, a DIY festival called Maker Faire Bay Area. Let me tell you more about this festival. The scale of American DIY is quite different.
This year there was such huge robots like this.
There was also a giant monument that could breath fire.
There were people doing live using electricity created by children riding bicycles.
There were children calmly touching mysteriously tough-looking robot.
There were also noticeably messy booths in the festival ground.
A corner of people who couldn't tidy up the mess.
There were junks...nope, robots standing in line.
This is our Hebocon.
Inside the booth was the place where we put materials and building robots. There was also an arena. Contestants built their robots here and let them fight for two days with 6 tournaments.
Although being named robot building event, this was for low-technique people, so instead of using components exclusive for professional robots, we used moving toys made in China.
For example, a box full of ducks...
Remodeling toys and building somewhat reluctantly-called robot like this is our Hebocon's principle. Those toys were ordered previously on internet and delivered directly to America. I just searched "electric toy" on Alibaba and sorted results from low to high price, then put them in cart orderly from the top. They were about 3 dollars for each.
This is "Dog", a sample of robot built in the event last year. Its body is a toy dog, and at that time I could only choose between pink and brown...
...but this year, the options increased incredibly. We had ones with stripes, wearing-skirt or sun-glasses
These toys might seems unnecessarily flashy and glittering. Moreover, year by year, they seems to get more and more eye-catching. Those Chinese companies probably believe that the more eye-catching their toys are, the more they can sell them.
This toy can shine while it dances, moving left and right.
Commercial belief vs creative desire
However, one thing shouldn't be forgotten is that even though those toys were distinctive enough, to us, they were only materials.
Each toy itself was already unique, but this is just where the full spirit of DIY of the American bumped in.
It's not fire but a whole fairy world emitted from the mouth
To arm in a "fully stock in a box" way.
Pile up vertically.
We don't set age limit to contestants, but somehow there were already lots of children in the Maker Faire. The Hebocon this year had 70% of its contestants were children.
Children didn't care about the word "moderate", so they tried to decorate their toys, which were already flashy. Adding on. Piling up. There was no difference between Japan and America here.
Sometimes they added ritual stuffs to the toys (and there were offerings at the tail, also)
Some were overly adding up that no one could know its original form.
A dog was turned into a board.
Originally, this Hebocon is a place where robots fight robots. However, there is another fight under this shadow. That is the fight between the commercial belief of Chinese companies, which is to make toys more eye-catching and sell out as much as they can, and the openly creative desire of the American children. These two powers conflict each other. This arena was formed with these two meanings.
An efficient assistant
Now, operating such a chaos place like this caused me a great problem. I cannot speak English. In three years since I started Hebocon, I had to do a lot of chatting and mailing oversea so that I can read and write ok. However, having a verbal conversation is totally a different thing.
Nevertheless, in three years, besides my English proficiency, I have found to myself a really powerful ally.
Here he is.
This guy is Adrian, the one who hold an event at Chicago inspired by Hebocon, "Robot Riot". Our first talk was at the fall last year. When he came to Tokyo to see me, we promised that one day, we will hold an event with each other. That "one day" came just less than half of a year after that. He was the host of all tournaments of Hebocon this year.
This is the sample robot made by Adrian. It had a pirate face and its spinning punch was marvelous. It would run if we remove the stopper made from cardboard.
This is a robot entrusted to us by a friend of Adrian. This friend works in a zoo, and the bone parts were all real.
His role of being a host was fantastic. He provoked the crowd, made sharp comments, took care of contestants. Those who came to help me or my acquaintances who just came to join, all asked me "Is he a pro?". Even though they already knew his job (an engineer of a science museum), they still asked again "May be he used to do it in the past?"
An imposing figure of Adrian grasping the mic.
Just enjoy the atmosphere with this video.
The quality of Adrian hosting this even can be given five stars. However, it came with a problem. His talking was so smooth that who is not good at listening like me can hardly follow.
However, to think thoroughly, it was just my lack of skill. I have to try better.
Because of that, after going back to Japan, I tried my best to watch videos of all the battles and finally I could listen and understand about 20% and somehow get a dim look about what happened. From the next page, you will have a report about all 6 matches from a not really accountable reporter like me.
Before the announcement there was a review of the rules. Hebocon is a sumo fight of Robots. One can win by pushing out or knocking down its opponent.
The champion was decided by tournaments. Besides, we also had an honor prize which was decided by voting for "the lowest technique" (Most Heboi (=clumsy) prize).
This year, there were 6 tournaments held in two out of three days of the festival .
The 1st tournament.
An astonishing visual as if it almost came from a bunch of debris
This robot made you feel not sure about its structure of disposable chopsticks stuck on its body, and the more you looked the more you became worried. The final battle developed into a fierce fight with the runner-up robot.
Such an adorable but fierce fight.
Cat vs cat, an adorable fight of two robots, whose base toy were the same.
However, being made from same toys means they have equal spec. Despite their cute looks, it was a close fight of two powerful competitors. The trump card was the ornaments. The opponent was decorated too much on the front so that its back legs became loose from the ground, therefore weaken its ability to grip. Otherwise, it may be only sheer luck.
The Most Heboi Prize winner: Ingrid
The one and only mysterious machine of the game this year. It looked like it didn't use moving toys given at the game and moved by an unknown technology.
This robot darted into its opponent's chest without a sound, however the unknown technology didn't have horse power so sadly, it was pushed back and lost the game.
By the way, when I checked the video again, I actually saw that there was a spinning fan behind the raccoon and may be it moved by this propulsion power.
The 2nd tournament
A brutal machine with a blade of a cutter knife stabbed into a board spattered with (fake) blood. With a savage look, this robot showed a cunning fight technique with smooth standing and spinning movement, operated by remote control. Being a bastard villain and winning the game, in the winner interview, its controller answered "I feel guilty".
The Most Heboi Prize winner: Karen
The robot's name is "Cat". Such a general concept.
A high level of coexistence of something cat-alike and something crab-alike. This is a toy that should have been made by an aldult rather than by a child. We can tell it has potential to win the most-Hebo prize just by its looks. Its materials included two toy trains from Daiso which had the most powerful propulsion. Its highlight moment was when it vigorously exited the arena with awesome horse power.
The 3rd tournament
A clubbing maniac type
We can see laser beam coming out from its body. However, only the eyes were really lighting. What coming out from the body were not laser beam, they were just sticks. This time, Jenna had to accept this winning, however, based on the match, it could have aimed to the Most Heboi prize. ( I have to repeat that the Most Heboi Prize is a more superior prize)
Most Heboi Prize winner: Lucas
Just watch this length
A long body stretched almost all the arena. It can be expressed in a cool way as looking alike a spear. However, in the fight, it was nothing but just a normal stick. A stick machine. In a real fight, they only have to make an action like grasping to push this stick out. With such convenient appearance, this robot was pushed out by its rival.
Bonus. This is a robot that didn't get any prize but had fought bravely. It didn't use any toy but it use two motors (it was powerful using gears). It had a self-made remote control made from batteries and copper wire, which required high level of skills. (but it still lost eventually)
A battle with a denture
The 4th tournament
Champion: Drishti Patel
A cyberpunk machine combined of folding fan and circuit board
Along with its strong horse power, the robot's main point was the folding fan attached at the front. While there were many machines who were over-decorated and therefore lost their balance easily, this folding fan from a high position could push over its opponent and knock them down like bringing down a domino.
Most Heboi Prize Winner: Sopha& Julia
This is a dog built by a group of two girls, its tails was turned into a mop.
And the most impressive battle of this dog was...
It was a battle where two bodies tangled to each other, spinning and dancing all the way.
After spinning around many rounds, the rotation started getting off the center, the opponent was out of the course so this dog won the battle. By the way, the competitor of this battle are...
these two people
They started to provoke the two children as their real rival before the game. After that, they tapped their hats on the table and left, acting a perfect role of villains.
The 5th tournament
A robot made from a strong horse-power train and had buffer material loaded on.
At the very start of the game, it used buffer material to wrap up its opponent. Then, still wrapping up gently like that, it slowly push the rival out of the arena. It taught us that violence is not always the strength. Such an educational machine.
Most Heboi Prize winner: Louis
It had the same material with the champion.
As same as the champion Justin, this robot was made from two trains. Theoretically, it was powerful as same as four opponents. However, for some unknown reasons, it was knocked out by the rival made from only one same train. Eventually, what decides the ability of a robot does not always lie on the engine.
The 6th tournament
The left is the front. It only has the ability to move forward. What a greedy design.
Its strategy was to use its "ハ" shaped arms to lure the opponent into its main front and use power to push him out. This strategy seemed to have great effect, but more than that...
the fluffy feathers seemed to cover up its opponent, which looked like it was eating its rival alive. That's scary!
I will introduce the Most Heboi Prize winner later, but before that, I would like you to see another robot.
It is a robot of a girl name Nacha
The base toy was a toy duck swimming in the bath tube. Its leg only rattled up on space and had no ability to walk on the ground. Based on that, I will introduce you the Most Heboi Prize winner of this tournament.
Most Heboi Prize winner: Nina
This is the robot of Nina, who won the Most Heboi Prize.
It used a different duck from the previous one.
This robot also used a duck as its base toy, but it had the ability to move on the ground. It was the rival of Nacha I mentioned above, but it rushed out of itself and flipped out of the arena. Although it was able to move around, it still lost the game to Nacha who didn't have ability to move.
There was one more impressive robot I want to talk about. It is a robot of a girl name Yui. You have to see the video below.
As the game was on, the way it broke out piece by piece was quite amazing. Other than that, how it sprinted (or better saying, disappeared) was awesome, too.
Strange things about Hebocon
Last year was the very first time I came to America as well as the first time I organized such an international event, my one and only purpose is "Let's hold this event". However, this year is the second time. Therefore, there was pressure about the quality, "I have to make it successful". With a precedent like the game last year, I was determined to hold an event even better than that.
Thus, I tried to prepare for this event even more flawless. However, as I got into the field, I realized that my English was actually just a piece of junk.
Nevertheless, this event was carried out successfully thanks to those like Adrian and who volunteered to help. To sum up this event by saying "This game's success is thanks to everybody" seems like a cliché, and I don't want to write like a professional writer, but it is the truth. It's everybody's effort that made this game successful. I sincerely express my gratitude to those who helped me to carry out this game.
Hebocon this year received four "Editors Choice" from the creator of Maker Faire, the "Make:" Magazine, and one "Best in class" as being a good project for education. (I'm so proud of this)