Dedication For my children. You inspired me to write this story.
Do you have hobbies?
Many people do.
For some it’s computer games or wrestling or collecting things like stickers or stamps. Some people’s hobbies become their whole life and some of them are just, well, hobbies and some of them are very, very weird. I discovered the other day that some people hold competitions for mooing like a cow and there are people who make their dogs look like tigers. Some people lie down in public places and put a photo of it on-line. That’s it. They don’t do anything else, they just lie down. I don’t mean they lie down in a pattern or wear some silly outfit, they just lie down. I guess in the end hobbies are like people - they’re all different and not everyone will find yours interesting. I’m pretty certain not everyone finds my hobby interesting but that’s fine with me.
I like robots.
That might not seem very strange for a ten year old boy but unlike other boys who like computer games, sport or comics I don’t like anything else.
Not at all.
Mum says my hobby is more like an obsession which I suppose it is but at least I’m not mad about jam. My mum makes jam all the time. Strawberry jam, blueberry jam, raspberry jam, gooseberry jam, she even tried making banana jam once! I think there’s still some of that on the kitchen ceiling actually. For me it has to be about robots: bedroom, ruler, pencils, lunch box, pyjamas, badges, t-shirts - even underpants, all about robots.
I’ve been building robots since I got my first box of Lego. I think it was supposed to be a kit for a truck or something but I made it into a robot-truck instead. My dream is to build a real robot. I’m not quite there yet but I will be.
I’m going to build a good robot. So many of the robots in stories are nasty and turn against humans. My robot will be different. I don’t want to be its master, I want to be its friend. My robot will be someone I can learn from. Someone I can teach. A friend. Mum once said there were plenty of those kinds of friends just waiting to be made at school and she’s probably right but that’s not as exciting as building your own friend.
I do have friends at school, they are the members of the Roboteers. It’s not an official club or anything, just something that a group of us who like robots call ourselves. We got the name from Wikipedia. I looked it up and it says “A roboteer refers to those with interests or careers in robotics”. That’s what our group is made of.
Actually when I say a group I mean a few. Okay at the moment it’s just me and Priya but you can’t expect too much. After all we’ve only been going for five years and we’re quite particular about who joins. We did have one other member a few years ago but he moved away in year four.
I guess my fascination with robots is because of my Grandad. He’s always fiddling with mechanical stuff and I suppose it rubbed off on me. When I was four Grandad gave me one of his old toys. It was a metal robot - called Sugar. Grandad said it was his favourite toy from when he was a boy. He said I had always played with it when I went to visit him. I don’t remember that but I do know that Sugar was about the best present he could have given me.
I should explain that Sugar is not what Grandad called the robot, it was my fault he got that name. His real name is SURGE, it’s written on his box and across his red chest doors in big gold writing. The trouble is that when I was four I couldn’t read that well and I got a bit mixed up.
I thought it said Sugar and no matter what anybody said I decided that was his name. He’s been called Sugar ever since, even though his chest still says SURGE. Dad always says it’s a really sweet name and then he laughs. He often laughs at his own jokes. Actually he’s usually the only one who does.
When Grandad first got Sugar his eyes flashed and he swung his arms back and forth as he walked. I mean Sugar’s eyes flashed of course. I don’t ever remember Grandad having flashing eyes but come to think of it he does swing his arms when he walks. Grandad said Sugar’s red and gold paint was shiny when he was new and his chest opened to reveal a “laser-cannon”. It was just a little red light really but Grandad always called it a “laser cannon”. He looked after Sugar really well but he played with him a lot.
A drawing of Sugar
By the time I got Sugar he was still in the original box. It was a bit battered and worn but there was a cool picture of him firing his laser as he towered over crowds of fleeing people on the front. I loved that picture.
I would stare at it for ages, imagining Sugar striding across the earth but instead of seeing the people running away from him I thought he was protecting them from some invader you couldn’t see. For me Sugar has always been the hero and not the villain. Dad said we should keep Sugar safe as he’s probably worth some money as a collector’s item. Grandad said that Sugar was a toy and toys were meant to be played with. I agree with Grandad. Besides I don’t know how he could be worth anything now.
His paint was peeling and faded when I got him. His eyes never flashed - even with new batteries - and he couldn’t even wobble let alone walk. About the only thing that worked was his chest doors which would pop open if you pulled on them and the cannon would flip out. The light didn’t come on but I didn’t care, I could move his arms and legs and twist his head and that was good enough for me. Ever since I got him Sugar has gone everywhere with me - except to school. I did take him once on one of my first days in reception. Miss Lapsi let me stand at the front and show him to the class. I was very proud of him and everybody thought he was great.
Sugar goes to school
Then at lunch time someone stuck a pencil into Sugar’s eye. I think it was David Trumaker. He’s always denied it but that’s the sort of thing he does.
The bulb broke and even though it had no chance of flashing if it did work, this damage was enough to convince me that Sugar would never accompany me to school again.
I remember being really upset and just crying. Pretty much everyone laughed, except Priya. She sat next to me and said she thought Sugar was brilliant. Priya said she wanted to be an engineer when she grew up. I thought she meant train driver but she explained her Mum was an engineer who designed bridges. After that we talked about building stuff all the time. I never realised you could build robots for a living! It wasn’t long afterwards that the Roboteers was born.
In time I realised if I was going to build a robot I needed to practice. I decided to practice on Sugar. To fix him I knew I had to learn electronics so I put electronics learning toys on every Christmas, birthday and Internet wish list that I could. I got pretty good at electronics too. Not good enough to build my dream robot but enough to have a go at fixing Sugar. The first few attempts didn’t really work though and if anything I think I made it worse but after a while I did it. I fixed him. Well I think it was me.
After what happened you would think I’d be famous but things don’t often turn out like that so, just so somebody else knows, this is the story of what happened when I finally got Sugar working again.