Scott Hanline remains very much a kid at heart.
The autistic 38-year-old Kent man, admittedly an “IT geek,” is a systems and network engineer for a Seattle company. But when he’s away from screens and keyboards, Hanline likes to tinker on his dream car – a high-powered 2011 Chevrolet Camaro he affectionately calls Bumblebee, named after the Transformer character of the popular action sci-fi film series.
Hanline’s customized yellow machine, dressed with black rally stripes, shone brightly outside the Kent Commons Community Center last Saturday, a guest display for the sixth annual CybFest Northwest – an all-day, all-everything-Transformers convention for families, children, artists, sellers and collectors.
Hanline has proudly taken his 6.2-liter-V8-juiced Bumblebee to car shows, comic-cons and other events to meet enthusiasts.
“(The car) kinda changed my life in a way. I used to be really shy, and you can’t be shy with this car,” Hanline said between greeting curious onlookers and talking to visitors at the Northwest Fan Ventures’ CybFest NW 2019. “People talk to you, and through that I was able to meet a lot of people in the local Transformers community.”
Hanline grew up with Transformers, a versatile toy based on parts that can be shifted about to change it from a vehicle, a device, or an animal, to a robot action figure and back again. Transformers – essentially two or more toys in one – have entertained and transcended generations since first appearing in the mid-1980s. The toyline has expanded to encompass comic books filled with tales of heroes and villains, as well as animation, video games and films.
Popularity has grown, as so has the attraction of CybFest NW.
What began out of an Auburn garage, where a group of friends traded toys, has turned into an annual show-and-tell event that has found a home in Kent.
Last Saturday’s convention at the Commons attracted about 300 people, beyond Ben Harpold’s expectations. As Harpold, one of the event’s founders and organizers explains, Kent is one of the few cities anywhere to put on such a show. CybFest NW’s pull reaches fans from throughout the Northwest and Canada.
Transformers continues to engage the imagination of young and old. It’s where STEM meets Marvel, art welcomes science.
“They have had great storylines that kids could connect to … and I think that’s what caught a lot of our attention and kept our interests,” said Harpold, a superfan who has a “ridiculous” Bumblebee collection. “As Transformers continued through the last 35 years, the evolution, the complexity of the Transformers keeps growing and growing. There’s more stories being told, there’s TV series and movies. It’s always evolving. You never know what’s going to happen next.”
CybFest NW 2019 offered 38 vendors, entertainment, interactive games and a special guest, David Kaye, the voice actor of Transformer characters.
The convention expanded this year, made more appealing to families and kids.
“They love robots and they love cars, so if you have a car that turns into a robot, that really piques their interest,” said Liz Bayer, an event organizer and volunteer who works as a daycare teacher in Bothell. “Superheros have all sorts of fun stuff. … Your kids maybe into flying or reptiles, and there’s a superhero for that. Everyone’s into cars, planes and boats, and so when … they turn into big, hulking robots and fight each other that’s a ton of fun.”
Spokane’s Ben Meginniss keeps coming back to the Kent convention for friendly competition. Meginniss, 19, an online aviation and aerospace student of Florida-based Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, returned to capture his third transforming contest in four years. He beat all challengers, quickly twisting and turning parts of what was a combat tank into a Transformer in less than a minute.
“Who doesn’t like to see robots fighting against each other?” asked Meginniss, who has collected more than 400 Transformers. “It’s hard to explain. It’s a combination of artwork and engineering and being around a community.”