Power up that imagination! Design duo transform everyday waste into cool robots

Fahmy working a new 'walking drone' creation in the Imaginary Bot Figures Creation Malaysia workshop/lab in Petaling Jaya. The yellow bot (in front) is called Kabuto, a nod to the Japanese rhino beetle. Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong

The art of making toys from recycled objects – simply put, that’s what Mohd Fahmy Mohd Hashim and Muhammad Hafiz Basri have honed into a skill that is pretty impressive.

The former schoolmates from Batu Pahat, Johor, began this interesting hobby a couple of years ago when they chanced upon the work of an army combat veteran named Rupert Valero on the Internet.

Hafiz said: “At that time, we came across this person on Facebook and Etsy called ValeroBots, who specialised in assemblage robots and reengineered toys. His mission was to inspire creativity, and we soon became friends. We decided that we could try doing what he did too.

“It was kind of expensive to get toys and figurines like Transformers and model kits, which we were very much into. You’d have to pay about RM800 for one item! So it made sense to just make our own. I remember Ashley Wood’s World War Robots were super expensive and rare at the time,” Hafiz said, referencing the graphic novel by comicbook artist Wood about a dwindling band of humans and robots who face off in a battle that will likely end humanity.

“The robots were basic – cylinder and boxed shaped. And we thought why don’t we just make one for ourselves instead? So we tried to replicate it with the similar painting style. And when we posted our creation on Facebook, the reactions were great!”

The good buddies said that ever since then, in 2017, they have been actively dabbling in repurposing old objects into robots and toys. So successful have their efforts been, that several media, including a German-based YouTube site, DailyWoWvideo, which highlights unique stories from around the world, have picked up on their awesome work and philosophy that you can “make do with what you’ve got!”

A rusted piece of Steampunk-inspired heavy metal? Look again! Spot the broken clock parts, cabinet door latch, washer and aluminium box. Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong

The friends have also hosted a couple of workshops around the Klang Valley and are slowly but surely building a name for themselves.

Granted, it may be a mouthful, but Imaginary Bot Figures Creation Malaysia (IBFCM) has already garnered a small but faithful following on Facebook.

“It’s still not that large a community and we treat this as a hobby more than anything else, but we have started to generate a small side income, which is good,” said Fahmy. “Plus we want to encourage others to do what we’re doing.”

Hafiz chipped in: “We enjoy it because it’s very economical – easy on the wallet, and it boosts creativity and critical thinking skills.” He added that he even got a couple of offers online, including one from someone in France, for some of his toys.

What is this bot made of? Well, do you see a soap detergent scoop, clothes peg, perfume spray nozzle and metal grill clips? Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong

Fahmy works full time as a graphic designer for a local media house, while Hafiz is an IT engineer. Once dorm buddies at college, they share a long history of growing up and enjoying similar pastimes such as reading comics and playing videogames.

Their friendship has stood the test of time, because at age 37, these young men are still happily playing (or bashing as they like to call it) together, giving new meaning to recycling and repurposing used items.

They’ve turned everything from old plastic containers, bottles, bottle caps, PC mouses, chargers, cables, staplers, screws and razors into some amazing-looking robots and sci-fi conceptual toys. These include spacecrafts and futuristic buildings, many of which have been affectionately named, and come with back stories.

Their handiwork is obviously dear to them, as Fahmy revealed: “These are not just our toys. They are our artworks, our sculptures, our masterpieces.

The attention to small details is what keeps the Imaginary Bot Figures Creation duo wide awake at night, working on perfecting the robots. Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong

“This was the first bot I made,” he went on to reminisce, pointing out the different parts and how they were all pieced together carefully. “We source most of the items from our own homes, but if we need extra parts or material we usually just get them really cheap at DIY shops.”

Fahmy and Hafiz have their own work spaces in their homes, but they always share ideas and discuss new projects with each other, as well as the larger community of toy aficianados on Facebook. The Internet has been a great catalyst in their journey.

“Before we started our own Facebook page, we used to crash another community page that belonged to a bunch of Latin folks. And what’s great is that they, as well as ValeroBots, were always so encouraging. There is a spirit of sharing and of wanting to inspire others on the Net,” said Fahmy.

Hafiz says that without guidance, a project can take a long time to complete. “But when there’s someone to give you ideas on how to proceed, things can take shape quickly. During our past workshops, some of the participants, even kids, were able to finish in under three hours, from conceptualising their bots to the final coat of priming.”

Unleash the inner child in you! At the end of a busy day in the studio, Fahmy (right) and Hafiz can pride themselves with an array of homemade robots to do "battle" with. Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong

The guys hosted two workshops in August. Rumah Seni Selangor (Russel) in Petaling Jaya invited them to host a “Bengkel Toy Making” once for a Pesta Genta in mid August, while the other workshop was held in conjunction with National Day.

“We were surprised with the turnout, and the level of interest,” both Fahmy and Hafiz chipped in excitedly. “It was nice to witness and encourage that sort of creativity. There was a guy who was 65 years old, and a girl who was just six!”

The graphic designer in Fahmy is overjoyed when people allow their creative juices to flow freely.

“Very often, once they grow up, people only use the logical side of their brain and abandon the creative, which is such a pity. So many things that only existed in the imagination once, have now been successfully adopted in real life,” he said, citing Luke Skywalker’s mechanical arm in Star Wars as a ready example.

“So we really hope to encourage others to use their imaginations and see things in a different way.”

A bot called 'Trunky', which has been assembled from a discarded toy capsule, parts of a LED lamp, broken ceiling light starter, clothes clip and assorted nuts and bolts. It is a tribute to the villain Gru (from the Despicable Me movie). Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong

Both men are married, and Hafiz has a son. Their wives are very supportive of their hobby, especially since they’ve ended up saving on having to spend big money buying toys and figurines. Hafiz has also been able to impress upon his kid the importance of reusing and recyling, and that it need not be a chore, but a fun activity.

“He gets bored with his toys very quickly, so now we collect them and create something new together,” Hafiz shared, wrapping up by saying that all you really need is some old junk, good adhesive and some cutting tools!

IBFCM hopes to take its hobby further someday too.

Hafiz offered: “Maybe even break into schools as an arts project or with corporate companies as a holiday activity for families. There is a lot we can do as this is such a fun and environmentally-friendly activity.”

IBFCM’s gig will be held on Oct 13 at the KL Toys Festival at Institut DBKL on Jalan Tun Razak, KL, in conjunction with KL Design Month. For more information, go to: www.facebook.com/IBFCM.

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