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Oly assembly more than meets the eye

Olympic High School senior Quinn Russell (pink shirt and tie, center) poses with classmates in front of a 17-foot-tall replica of Optimus Prime. Russell designed the Transformer prop in his 3D animation class taught by Brandon Brown (orange mustache, far right) and put it together with help from his classmates. - Photo by Paul Balcerak
Olympic High School senior Quinn Russell (pink shirt and tie, center) poses with classmates in front of a 17-foot-tall replica of Optimus Prime. Russell designed the Transformer prop in his 3D animation class taught by Brandon Brown (orange mustache, far right) and put it together with help from his classmates.
— image credit: Photo by Paul Balcerak

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Friday’s pep assembly at Olympic High School was just like any other — until a giant robot showed up.

OK, so maybe it wasn’t an actual robot, but the 17-foot Optimus Prime replica was able to transform and draw a pretty excited reaction from the crowd in the packed Olympic gym.

“I wanted to do something that people would just go nuts over,” said Olympic senior and project mastermind Quinn Russell.

Russell, also the executive president of the student body, appeared to get his wish.

“It was top-secret for three weeks,” Russell’s friend and fellow senior Max Hall said. “All in all, a lot of it came out perfect.”

Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobots in the 1980s “Transformers” cartoon and in the 2007 movie of the same name. He transforms from a semi-truck into a humanoid robot to fight the Decepticons, the Autobots arch-rivals.

The replica stood about 9 feet tall in semi-truck form and about 17 feet in robot form, almost to the ceiling of the Olympic gym.

A rope and pulley was attached to the front end of the truck, which rose up to transform into Prime’s chest. About half a dozen students were required to hoist the piece. The “legs” of the robot slid out from under the chest piece.

The project started several weeks ago when Russell and his senior classmates were told the January pep assembly would have a video game theme. The senior class skit was to revolve around three video games — “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Transformers.”

“As soon as I heard ‘Transformers,’ ... they (classmates) were like, ‘Let’s make a Transformer,’ and I was like, ‘15 feet,’” Russell said.

A video of the senior skit, including the transformation, was posted on YouTube on Saturday.

Russell designed the replica electronically in his 3D animation class at Olympic.

Physically putting it together was an entirely different challenge. The project took about three weeks to complete with nearly 20 people working on it intermittently.

“At first, we didn’t know where to start,” Hall said.

Russell’s father, Chuck, who is a local sign painter, offered guidance and his shop as a place to store the gargantuan prop until it was ready to be debuted at the assembly.

“My dad is a kid at heart and I know he loves doing crazy stuff like this,” Quinn said.

Chuck Russell’s sign painting skills also came in handy when it came time to apply the Autobot logo to Prime’s shoulders.

“It’s all him,” Chuck said, motioning to his son, when asked who did all the heavy lifting on the project.

The Optimus Prime project wasn’t Quinn’s first foray into large prop design. For an assembly last year, he put together a large replica of Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter from “Star Wars” that was made out of corrugated plastic.

That prop outstayed its welcome in storage at Olympic and had to be burned, but Quinn would like to think that Prime could be put to better use.

Ideally, the prop would be sold with the profits going to Olympic, he said. “We’re thinking of selling him on Craigslist as a semi-truck. Comes with standard transformation. Allspark.

“He has feelings, too, we’re not burning him.”

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