Eat your heart out, Tron Man. There’s an anime fan in Alaska who is certain to win the prize for best Halloween costume when he finishes building his real-life, 18 foot-tall mecha suit. If science fiction has predicted the advent of space travel, the laser beam, robotics and cloning, is it such a stretch to think that Mobile Suit Gundam may soon be a reality? Twenty-six-year-old welder-turned-entrepreneur Carlos Owens doesn’t think so.
While most people have pink flamingos or garden gnomes in their yards, Owens has a giant robot encased in scaffolding like something designed by scientists to battle Godzilla. At first glance, it looks like one of those eccentric art pieces, like the big dinosaurs welded together from pieces of scrap metal. A closer look, however, reveals an earnest attempt to build a future fighting machine–or at least a tool for battling fires, loading cargo or bitch-slapping angry queen aliens.
For the uninitiated, mecha is a subgenre of anime that deals with enormous, mechanized assault vehicles, mostly humanoid in form, controlled by human pilots. Owens grew up watching such mecha favorites as Voltron and Transformers, and later got into Gundam Seed and Full Metal Panic. More recently, he’s been inspired by the use of mecha suits in Hollywood blockbusters such as Aliens and the Matrix sequels. He tells Animation Magazine Online, "Hollywood evolves mecha on the big screen, but it seems that no one has really put forth the effort in creating a real mecha outside of that arena."
It would be easy to dismiss Owens as another crackpot, like that other Alaskan dude who dedicated his life to making a suit that would protect him from grizzly bears. However, looking at his site, Owens comes off as a smart, rational guy who just might be able to pull this off. He’s a welder/metal fabricator by trade and picked up some technical engineering skills during his military service in the Army Corp of Engineers, where he specialized in heavy-equipment mechanics.
The patent office hasn’t yet heard form Owens because he says the concept isn’t exactly new. "The idea has been around since the dawn of technology," he says. "I mean if you want to be technical, it’s been around since the Achaeans hid in the horse taken into the Trojan camps. It might have been non-powered and made of wood, but hey, the idea was still there. As for the neo-mech, the only thing on it that is patent pending is the balance method. It allows the mech to shift its weight from one side to the other without losing stabilization during normal movement."
Owens has already invested $15,000.00 of his own money into his prototype and may pump at least another $5,000 into it before he has a functional first draft. He’s also seeking investors to help him raise $250,000 and take th project to the next level. Through his company, Neogentronyx, he hopes to one day have a large-scale production pipeline that would allow him to sell Neo-Mecha to the general public at affordable costs. He anticipates selling the fully loaded "Eddie Bauer" edition for around $60,000 and letting the basic model go for $35-40,000. So for the price of a decent new car, you, too, could be stomping through the countryside in a vehicle that would put Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decked-out Hummer to shame. "I honestly believe that anyone and everyone who ever wanted to have such a thing as their own mecha should be able to without worrying if they can afford it. Dreams shouldn’t be unattainable," declares Owens.
To his neighbors, Owens must look a bit like Noah building his ark or Andy Griffith assembling a working rocket-ship out of scrap metal in the short-lived ’80s show, Salvage 1. And while the project has certainly aroused the attention of the neighborhood, Owens says it’s all good. "I have had neighborhood kids come up to me while I’m welding away and ask me if I am building a giant robot. Then, of course, once I answer ‘yes,’ the questions begin. The parents also come over from time to time to talk about it. It seems curiosity is contagious."
Curiosity is indeed contagious, and we assume you’ll want to see more images of Owens’ NMX04-1A and find out more about his master plan. You can do so at www.neogentronyx.com.