STORY Oct 16, 2017
 

HEBOCON Coming Back to America - A Report of HEBOCON Bay Area 2017

Hebocon has once again came to America, continued from last year.
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
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.
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.
This year there was such huge robots like this.
There was also a giant monument that could breath fire.
There was also a giant monument that could breath fire.
There were people doing live using electricity created by children riding bicycles.
There were people doing live using electricity created by children riding bicycles.
There were children calmly touching mysteriously tough-looking robot.
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.
A corner of people who couldn't tidy up the mess.
There were junks...nope, robots standing in line.
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.

Evolving materials

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...
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
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
...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.
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
It's not fire but a whole fairy world emitted from the mouth
To arm in a
To arm in a "fully stock in a box" way.
Pile up vertically.
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)
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.
Some were overly adding up that no one could know its original form.
A dog was turned into a board.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.

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