in Artists & Engineers

Dancing Into Our Hearts: Merrick Hanna Buddies Up To Evo

13-year-old dance sensation Merrick Hanna is ON. FIRE. The world fell in love watching him transform into a robot through dance on America’s Got Talent. Although he didn’t win the competition, he stole the hearts of many and inspired kids around the globe to learn to dance.

We have been inspired by Merrick’s talent, maturity, great attitude, and adoration of robots. It was a no brainer that we had to get to know him and introduce him to Evo. The pair hit it off instantly, as Merrick loves that Evo embodies two of his favorite things: drawing and robots.

So, we wanted to sit down with Evo’s newest friend to gain more insight on how it all started, who inspires him, and how he is handling social media stardom.

 

How did your obsession with robots come about?
When I was about two or three, I was at a local fire station open house. I saw this robot that was kind of roaming around and now when I think about it, it was controlled by someone by a walkie talkie or something that was connected to it. But my two- or three-year-old self just thought it was a walking, talking robot moving all by itself. I thought it was the coolest thing ever! So after that night, all I did was imitate robot arms and make the noise “eh eh eh” that’s when it kind of all started.

Tell us more about how you express that obsession through dance and art.
I have been drawing robots ever since I was in elementary school. I also have robot art in my room and I help my dad build robot props for a yearly haunted house that we do at our local elementary school. I’ve also learned how to solder and learn to build robots and that is probably one of my favorite things that I do during Halloween. I’ve also done some block programming and I started with Arduino to control the robots that we build together.

In terms of dance, whenever I hear a song, I almost use my body like it’s creating the song as it plays. So, when I start listening to a type of music, I start doing robot dancing. It has kind of evolved to, I guess you can say, being more types of robots.

Awesome! How old were you when you when you started dancing?
I started teaching myself to dance after seeing the Jabbawockeez on television. I think I was about eight years old. I was a huge fan of everything robots and I was intrigued that people could also dance like one. I would practice in my room just trying to get my roboting perfect and I kept watching this one tape of this Jabbawockeez performance over and over because they were doing this roboting in the beginning that I thought was so cool.

Then, I went onto Youtube and started watching some other dancers such as Poppin’ John, tWitch, Bluprint, Cyrus, and Jaja. Those are a lot of influencers. I watched their videos over and over.

Also, when I first started entering local freestyle battles, a lot of people I saw there were really influential. I would just watch them dance. My mom would sometimes take video and I would watch it over.

Do you have any tips for future creators out there?
I guess some of the advice that I have is to keep practicing and take feedback from other people. Don’t see it as hate, see it as constructive feedback. That’s one of the reasons I was able to improve. I like to make my style as cool and as much like a robot as possible. So, I was listening to other people’s feedback and trying to change my style according to their feedback. I also watch myself dancing, using a mirror or recording and watching it back. Then, I’d give myself feedback as I’m watching it and would try to do whatever I just did, but better.

You seem to manage the complicated choreography of social media very well. How do you deal with negative people or comments?
Going off what i just said, I kind of ignore the mean comments, but I really try to listen to everyone’s comments—whether it is negative feedback or positive feedback. That is, I think, the main thing when reading comments is just to ignore the toxic, mean ones but try to listen to … the constructive criticism.

What are some things that you love about your audience?
I think one of my favorite things about my online audience is that there are a lot of these younger kids, who probably wouldn’t be dancing, however they saw me dance and now they are trying to copy my performance and try to learn how to dance too. That is so awesome because when I first started dancing, there was no one online who was my age and did the same style as me. But now there are so many and that is probably one of the coolest things about my online audience and also, I think an even cooler thing is that when i first started dancing, there were pretty much no boys dancing at all in my classes and now when I go to my old classes it’s filled with a whole bunch of boys that say “Hey, I was inspired by you!” and that is the coolest thing.

So, do you know how to code?
Yeah! I started learning how to code when I was seven or eight years old. I first started on a program called HopScotch. Then I moved onto Scratch, which is blockly coding, similar to Evo [with OzoBlockly]. Now, I am trying to learn JavaScript and I have also been figuring out what to do with the OzoBlockly software. When I first saw it, I thought “Oh, this is pretty basic.” But then I started diving into the more complicated part of it and there’s actually a lot you can do!

How is coding with Evo different from other programming or robotics projects that you’ve done?
Well, the fact that you can code with Color Codes is really neat because it combines two of my favorite things: coding and drawing. And the ability to create huge drawings and have Evo dance on top of them according to where the lines are and what colors each one has, is SO cool. In fact, I’ve already started making a huge Evo track that looks like a huge robot head and it does circles around the eyes and does zigzags and goes through the antennae. That’s probably my favorite part about [Evo].

 

Okay, most important question of all: Unicorn or Racer Wearable Skin for Evo?
Unicorn all the way! Although, my brother kinda likes the racer but I totally disagree with him because the unicorn is magical and it has rainbows! And it’s just the best.