Maker Expo, with 150-pound fighting sumo robots, hits Waterloo Region in fall

Why buy something new when you can make it yourself? That's the idea behind maker culture, and its the focus of giant local event coming to Waterloo Region in the fall.

Deadline to register for Expo is July 1

Ravi Baboolal, second from right, is one of the organizers of Maker Expo and will be running the fighting robot competition at the event. (Ravi Baboolal)

Why buy something new when you can make it yourself? That's the idea behind maker culture, and its the focus of huge local event coming to Waterloo Region in the fall, an event that will include 150-pound fighting robots. 

"Maker Expo is a showcase of all things maker and do it yourself," said one of the expo's organizers, Ravi Baboolal, in an interview.

"A maker is really anybody who is producing something rather than just consuming. That means you're doing knitting, you're repairing a T-shirt, you're repairing a chair, you're building a chair, as well as stuff like 3D printing, robotics, art, painting. It's anybody who's doing something for themselves."

Baboolal and a group of people affiliated with KwartzLab Makerspace in Kitchener are running the Maker Expo on Sept. 19 at Kitchener City Hall and on King Street West. 

Baboolal is also coordinating the fighting robots events. There are two classes of fighting sumo robots divided by weight, at 30 pounds and 150 pounds.

"They'll be having grabbing arms and lifting claws and all kinds of craziness to try to get their opponent out of the arena, just like a sumo wrestler would," said Baboolal. "Honestly, the key is driving. You can have the best robot in the world, but if you can't drive it you're doing to lose."

Baboolal will be building his robot at the KwartzLab space on Kent Avenue on Tuesday nights, and encourages others who want to build robots to join him if they need help or advice. He says that people should build the best robots they can and spend lots of time practicing driving the robot, if they want to win. 

The registration deadline for the fighting robot event, The Great Canadian Bot Brawl, is August 19.

"As my hobby, I build these fighting robots with some other guys from Canada. We travel to the States and fight our robots," said Baboolal. "There's no event in Canada doing robots the size we are."

There have been maker events in the region before but this year the group is doing on their own, instead of using the internationally known Maker Faire name for the event.

"They require a fee to use their name. In this case, it's about $3,000. We didn't see the need to spend that money and spend it out of our community," said Baboolal. "So we decided to re-brand it 'Maker Expo,' make it our own and keep all of that money within Waterloo Region." 

Baboolal's goal is register 150 vendors and exhibitors for this year's expo. The deadline to register is July 1.