OPINION: Reporting, robots & Squamish

Standing in mud, light rain soaking through my jacket, my hands turning red with cold to the point my recorder was shaking— I was having the best afternoon a journalist can have.

It was Friday, Jan. 18 and me, fellow-reporter Steven Chua and photographer David Buzzard were out at the railyards watching Prosthesis, the world’s first purpose-built off-road racing mech stomp around, guided by its inventor and pilot, Jonathan Tippett.

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Journalists like to complain about the hours, the lack of respect for what we do, and the pay. But the truth is, being a reporter offers some of the coolest moments life can offer.

We were having a whole bunch of those moments on Friday afternoon.

The foot of Prosthesis versus my foot. - Jennifer Thuncher

Chua and I looked at each other a few times as we watched this machine stand up, tower above us, and then proceed to walk around in the muck — all in the shadow of the Stawamus Chief.

It felt like what watching a plane fly for the first time must have felt like or, as Chua said, watching a light bulb light up for the first time. 

But as we watched in awe, we weren’t quite so profound.  I may have said “This is so freaking cool!” as I punched Chua repeatedly in the arm. 

He may have said, “I feel like I am in a dream!” a few times.

I am certain Buzzard said, repeatedly, “This is sick, dude!’ as he ran alongside Prosthesis getting the shots and video that went with the story.

The most surreal part for me was actually not seeing the massive machine come to life and splash in puddles, but came when I put my size 6.5 gumboot up against Prosthesis’s foot (does one call a robot foot, a foot?). It was three times the size of mine.

All three of us from The Chief were on a high for the rest of the day. It was so surreal.

More than that, the whole situation was so — Squamish.

A bunch of smart, innovative  — humble and kind — dudes in town to work and enjoy the outdoors. They are passionate about what they do and think way, way, way outside the box. I mean, an off-road sports league for giant robots?

But, why not? We have all kinds of other elite and extreme athletes; an electric, human-powered robot fits right in.

Also very Squamish was the guys’ “if it doesn’t work, find another way” attitude. Like every climber, biker and kiter in town, failure to them is just another word meaning try again.

The team behind Prosthesis has been at this for more than a decade. The thing was built with blood, sweat and tears and then proceeded to face plant when they finally first got it powered up.

But like so many others in Squamish in sport or business, they found a work around and tried again until they were successful. And then the local media came calling to shine a spotlight on the finished product.

What could be more Squamish than that?

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