By Mike Garrison
Welcome to LiveRC's weekly column, "Talk-It-Up Tuesday!" Here we spend a little time talking with industry icons including racers, manufacturers, team managers, developers, promoters, and everyone in between! Sit back, relax, and go behind the scenes as we interview them all!
For this week's Talk-It-Up Tuesday we sit down and chat with Tekin's very own Ty Campbell. Ty is the son of Tekin owners Jim and Sherri Campbell, he is an experienced R/C racer, R/C crawler, and all around R/C guru. He joins us to talk about the latest from Tekin, his latest scale builds, the world of R/C crawling, racing, and more!
LiveRC: Welcome Ty to this week’s “Talk It Up Tuesday”! Let’s start out talking about how you and your family first became involved in R/C cars. When, where, and how did it all begin?
Ty: I was born in Boise, ID in spring of 1988. The hospital overlooks Fort Boise park and there used to be an RC track out in the middle of it and my parents could see it from the window of the delivery room. My dad is an engineer and he was intrigued by the cars, electronics and group of people racing competitively. This was the start of it all. If it hadn't been for that track, we might not have gotten into RC as heavily as we are now.
LiveRC: Tekin is a brand name known for its success starting in the early days of R/C. When, where, and how did Tekin begin and grow to where it is today?
Ty: Tekin was started by the original owner in the early 1980's in SoCal. We were just hobbyists casually enjoying RC here and there through my teenage years until 2002 when we uprooted from small town McCall, ID and moved to Palm Desert, CA as my dad and grandpa explored a totally unrelated to RC business venture. While we lived there for only a few short months, we raced and practiced at Palm Desert RC Raceway behind the HobbyTown USA. We had a few Tekin ESCs and a few Novak ESCs in our cars and trucks at the time and actually needed to get some parts from Tekin. This is when we discovered it had been basically shut down and the point when my dad took an interest in it. He's a bulldog like that and had to find out what happened and more importantly to him, was it for sale. Long story short, it took about 2 more years, a few trips to San Clemente and at the end we owned an electronics business and 2 semi trailers full of equipment. It was all trucked to McCall, ID in 2004 and this is where we have been for the last 14 successful years.
LiveRC: What are some of your daily roles at Tekin?
Ty: Pretty much whatever needs to be done around here gets done. We are a small family group in the main office and all wear multiple hats. I primarily handle our online side of things, being the websites, shop, server, part of the social media and customer service. I work closely with the design team on product development, have a hand in product testing, work side by side with our lead designer on marketing, advertising and even jump out in production to package product or fill orders. It's an all hands on deck kind of atmosphere around here!
LiveRC: Over the years we have seen a lot of changes and advancements in the ESC and motor market. What were once mechanical speed controls are now electronic and capable of being programmed from a smart phone. What is next in ESC / motor technology?
Ty: Compared to 15 years ago, the hobby is so far advanced that I'd say the majority of racers today don't know what it took to keep a brushed NiCD or NiMh powered car on the track for a full race day. I remember cutting comms and breaking in brushes, tuning motors, cycling and conditioning battery packs and still somehow finding time to work on the actual car if it needed. Brushless and LiPo have really accelerated the hobby growth and ESC technology is really advancing as well. Timing features like Boost and Turbo really changed the game in the racing world and brushless motor designs are and have been adapting to fit the needs of a particular application. We have always been about building what works for a specific class or genre and that's where the RX8 ESC, T8 motor and Pro4 motor lineups came from. Classes needed specialized equipment, so that's what we went after. I think the future holds more technological advancements for RC components that will be coming soon. Electrical components are becoming better and better, we can do amazing things with software and all of that combined allows us to create great products that fit the user's needs. What's next? I'd love to tell you, but my boss is also my dad and that would make watching college football games on Saturdays really awkward.
LiveRC: Tell us a little about some of the newest Tekin products and what sets them apart from other comparable products on the market.
Ty: The products I'm honestly the most hyped about right now are our servos. This may seem like a complete step outside the box for us, but take a look at what a servo is. It's a small ESC and a motor. Well we make those already, so shrink it down and put it in an aluminum case with some gears and we got servos! I've had hundreds of servos over the years from all the brands you could name and we wanted to do something different with ours. The technology isn't new, but our Digital Position Encoding (DPE) is what sets our servos apart. In a traditional servo, there is a potentiometer tracking position and a physical stop point and in ours, it's all done with the encoder and we can rotate 360 degrees. We can track up to 5 full rotations (currently ;)) and the accuracy and response are amazing. It's hard to explain, but you feel more connected to your car with less steering corrections needed. The response is smooth and instant, the steering is consistent from left to right with no speed changes during the throw and it just feels smooth through the transmitter. Hard to describe, but you really can feel the difference. Throw in the HotWire programming with the ability to set end points, center position, alarms and plenty more options, we've got a servo that can improve the feel of your vehicle. Steering, nitro throttle or aircraft control surfaces there's a Tekin servo that will work for the application.
LiveRC: Tekin has expanded their lineup of products with their new line of servos in addition to the ESC’s and motors. What made you guys decide to venture into servos?
Ty: Since I went heavy into servos above, I'll keep it short here. We wanted to branch out into more than just ESCs and Motors. We've always wanted to be present in the nitro world and servos are a perfect door. Nitro cars need two of them after all!
LiveRC: Can you give us any insight as to what might be coming next from Tekin?
Ty: I don't want football games to be uncomfortable, but I can say that you'll be seeing more products in our Element Proof lineup. The scale crawlers love to play in water, so we have been working on protecting products like the RX4, ROC412 motors and servos from water.
LiveRC: Tekin products range from bashing to racing to rock crawling. You have done it all from being a racer to a basher to a scale crawler. What is your personal favorite genre of R/C and why?
Ty: Racing is my background for sure, but the scale rock crawling genre hooked me in 2006. I started seeing some really awesome custom builds pop up on eBay, which then lead me to RCCrawler.com and then it was on from there. I built my first scaler in 2007 and it was a complete kit bash. Axial AX10 transmission, TCS frame rails, Tamiya TLT axles and shocks, Traxxas drive shafts, custom all thread links and an HPI Jeep TJ body for the Savage. Drove 7 hours to Helena, MT for my first comp ever, the MSD Scale Nats. That one crawler has turned into many more over the years and hundreds of miles of hiking with an RC vehicle. Scale is probably my favorite genre, but I'm still a racer, still a pilot , command a few 1/16 tanks and play with an RC boat or two a few times a summer. My hobby is well rounded.
LiveRC: Without a doubt you have some of the most realistic scale crawler builds we’ve seen. Obviously to build these it takes a lot of time and effort. How much time do you usually put into a build to create such a realistic scale replica?
Ty: The two FMTV builds are definitely the biggest and most time-consuming builds I've done to date. I couldn't have done either without our lead designer doing what he does best, drawing up the parts and bringing them to life. The M1083 6x6 truck took about 4 months total and the Dakar M1079 took about 10 months and was fairly off/on during the deep winter months. Rounding up parts took some time and bringing it all together had some speed bumps along the way. These trucks were built from start to finish (ha, they are never really done) but my other scalers like my Jeep start from a simple build and continuously evolve from there. I built my JK 5 years ago and am still changing it and adding parts here and there.
LiveRC: What do you enjoy the most about building and driving these vehicles?
Ty: For me it is the satisfaction of making something that is my own and then using it for the purpose it was built for. I drive my trucks hard, but I don't thrash them. I try to stay scale and always plan on driving it home (or back to the truck) but sometimes you just have to jump something with a crawler and giggle like a kid doing it. The adventure every time we hit the trails or track is the best part of the hobby.
LiveRC: R/C scale crawling has grown immensely over the past 5 years with events (such as Axialfest) hosting well over 1,000 participants time and time again – making these events larger than any on-road or off-road R/C car races. What do you think draws so many people to the crawling world and events such as these?
Ty: Fun. Events like Axialfest are epic adventures that the whole family can get in on. The atmosphere is relaxing and full of energy at the same time. When you've got 1,000 people camping together, driving R/C vehicles 24 hours a day with music blasting from vendor row it's like a small version of the King of Hammers or a Baja race. The schedule is your own, the trails are always open and the rock racing action on Saturday is a bash fest of awesomeness. I think events like these draw people in because they probably already like camping, being outside, hiking, driving a crawler or all of them put together. The competitive racers can get their fill running the 5K Enduro and the not crazy people can go hit whatever trail they want whenever they want. Racing is absolutely just as much fun as a big scale event, but it's different. There's a schedule to keep and you're there for one purpose; to see if you're as fast or faster than the other racers. Neither one is better than the other, it's just different strokes.
LiveRC: If there was one thing you could change to better R/C, what would it be and why?
Ty: One of my biggest peeves about R/C is the insane amount of racing classes there are. I liked when we had stock and mod, nothing else. I get maybe separating the Pros from the Joes so to speak, but when we've got Pro, Expert, Novice, 40+, Stock, Superstock, Modified, hovercraft it starts to get too muddy. I love races that have a deep field because making the A-main isn't automatic and should be earned. I remember racing at CRCRC a few years back and was stoked to be in the B-main of 4WD modified but I was also in the J-main of 2WD modified. Humbling for sure but I didn't have one clean qualifier and a really awesome 1-lap main event due to sawing an arm off. I earned that 10th in the J-main! Less classes is better and there should always be a Novice. Newbies need a place to race and grow because they are the future of the hobby.
LiveRC: What is the best and worst parts of working in the R/C industry?
Ty: The best part is seeing people use your products to go out and do what they love. We take pride in manufacturing components that drive adventures and promote the lifestyle R/C enthusiasts enjoy. The worst part might just be that I really don't get to drive crawlers or race near as much as I would like to. What's the old saying? If you love to ski, don't own a ski shop. Well, that is sometimes true for working in the R/C industry as any events you go to, you'll probably spend more time working than playing while you're there, but it does feel great to help people out and provide a service while on the road.
LiveRC: When you aren’t building a new car or behind the wheel of one, what are some things you enjoy doing outside of the R/C world?
Ty: Spring and Fall, I try to get out on the mountain bike a few times a week. There are miles of trails here and two resorts with downhill to take advantage of. Summer time is lake time, where boating, wakesurfing, jet skiing and bon fires are the weekly activities. Our winters are usually pretty good, with 500”+ of snowfall on the mountain and plenty of ski days. I sold my snowmobile and snowbike kit last year, but I'm sure we will come back around to those sometime.
LiveRC: One thing most people don’t know about Ty Campbell?
Ty: People close to me know that I'm a yuuuuuuge Star Wars fan. I've got a collection some people probably would think is silly and even a themed half sleeve tattoo on my right arm I have been working on this year. Sunday is frequently Star Wars Sunday and I will pop one of the movies in and watch with both of my daughters. My 6 year old loves Star Wars, particularly everyone's favorite round droid BB-8. We, of course, have an R/C BB-8 that roams around the house on the regular.
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LiveRC: Thank you for joining us today Ty! Your desk appears to be covered in parts and pieces of what we can only assume will be another epic scale build. We should probably let you get back to work on it. Is there anything you would like to add before we go?
Ty: Thanks for reminding me I need to clean my desk, that's probably what I'll do next. I'd like to thank Mike and LiveRC for having me on Talk it Up Tuesday! In the words of the famous Ricky Bobby, I wanna go fast! Unless it is a crawler, then I wanna go slow.