By Emily DeRuy
At La Jolla High School’s annual homecoming parade on Friday, one attendee rose high above the rest. Standing at more than 17 feet tall, Russell the robotic giraffe carried members of the class of 1960 along the parade route.
A computer programmer by day and a large-scale robotic animal aficionado by night, Lindsay Lawler — who goes by the moniker Lindz — created the talking and walking electric giraffe in 2005 as an innovative way to get above the crowds at the annual Burning Man event in Nevada.
Friends and family have helped evolve and adapt Russell, and he has ties to a number of this Friday’s La Jolla parade goers.
Sandy Shrosbree, a member of the class of 1960 who rode giraffe, is Lawler’s aunt. Her son, Boone Brabon, and grandson, George, helped Lawler build the robot and both were at the parade to assist with operating Russell.
“Two years ago, Lindz did a rebuild, a second build,” said George Brabon. “My dad and I helped with that and now it says things like ‘Hello, my name is Russell’ when people pet it.”
George didn’t just attend the parade as a helper for Lindz, but also as a student. He will graduate from his grandmother’s alma mater this year, and, proving that some things really do run in the family, he is president of La Jolla High School’s award-winning Robotics Club.
Shrosbree, who still lives in La Jolla, was looking forward last wwek to sharing the parade experience with her grandson.
“Oh my, it’s so much fun,” she said. “My grandson and I are so close.”
A former cheerleader and leader of the Windandsea Historical Surfriding Association, Shrosbree says technology like Facebook has made it easy to stay in contact with former classmates. She maintains friendships with about 50 people, including John Campbell, a former head cheerleader, who also rode the giraffe last Friday.
Marvin Van Artsdalen, president of the Viking Alumni Association and a graduate of the class of 1962, served as grand marshal of the ceremonies.