Radford welcomes community for Hebocon, Battlebots

Radford University hosted Hebocon, a community event in which participants fought homemade robots in a sumo-style competition in November.

The Hebocon concept originated in Japan, but has made its way around the world due to its “highly unsophisticated nature” and the ability to “do everything yourself,” according to Associate Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) John Hildreth.

“You build robots out of junk, toys, remote controlled cars or gadgets,” Hildreth said. “Then, you come together with others that do the same thing and hold a sumo competition."

Radford University held a successful pilot event last fall, which had a dozen students from local middle and high schools. 


Laney Cline, a student at Dalton Intermediate School, fights her battlebot.

The event grew exponentially in 2016.

“The event was at least three times as big with multiple schools involved,” Hildreth said. “We wanted to make opportunities for Radford students to be mentors. They were trained in basic skills, which was soldering wires and putting little capacitors together. Inside of a half-hour, they could get the skills and become mentors to the K-12 kids. It was a great opportunity for the students to teach and mentor. The event is all about creating opportunities.”

Five Radford faculty members, seven Radford students, five local K-12 teachers and over 40 K-12 students were involved in the community event. Members of the new MakerSpace living-learning community and the New Media Center at Radford University also participated.

Some of the battlebots used in Radford University's 2016 Hebocon.

“They get to know their teachers in a different and special way,” said Director of CITL Charley Cosmoto.

Part of uniqueness of the event is that everyone is on an equal playing field when it comes to building the Battlebots.

“A bunch of amateur students came together and we were told to have at it,” said Dalton Intermediate School student Landon Root. “There were so many possibilities.”

The teachers, faculty and Radford students worked with the participants to develop these opportunities together.

“The mentors – both faculty and Radford students – brushed up on techniques that they hadn’t had to work with in a long time,” Cosmoto said. “It made it a true learning community. Everyone is a beginner.”

Hildreth said the competition itself was a “sports event combined with a rock show” and that the event had an announcer, M.C., robot triage and more in Cook Hall.

"We’re happy to be a part of creating this opportunity for K-12 and Radford University students,” Hildreth said. “It is all part of a larger effort to build a creative learning culture on campus and in the community.”

Nov 30, 2016
Max Esterhuizen
(540) 831-7749