Ask any engineer what originally sparked their interest in technology, and almost universally the response will be a Hollywood film or TV robot — Star Wars’ R2-D2, the B9 robot from Lost in Space, or Short Circuit’s Johnny 5, to name a few. Engineers need a creative outlet too, and some pay homage to their inspirations by building elaborate reproductions. At this year’s Maker Faire, droid-builders had their own corner in the center hall, their work ranging from humble craft materials to ’bots surpassing their film counterparts in detail and workmanship.
Probably the most beloved film robot of all time would be R2-D2, and probably the best-known reproductions originate from the R2-D2 Builders Club, who’ve been profiled in Make and Servo magazines, among others. Every kid’s dreamed of building their own R2, perhaps from a wastepaper basket and scrap, but the club’s astromech droids are anything but kid stuff, with machined aluminum domes and intricate motor and sound systems. The club doesn’t sell robots — that would infringe on trademarks — but they do share techniques and component plans. The finished droids (are they ever really finished?) put in appearances at fan conventions and charity events.
Danger Will Robinson! Career inventor [Andrew Filo] has been engineering practical everyday items for three decades, but he cuts loose by bringing his early inspirations to life. His carefully-researched reproductions include an Apollo-era NASA spacesuit and a talking, walking…er, rolling…B9 robot.
Self-described recluse [ELS] is a builder and collector of film props and reproductions. Though he insists his Robby and B9 aren’t perfectly canon, you’d never know by looking; the detail and finish on these two was amazing. Robby is wearable, and periodically through the weekend he’d climb into the suit and entertain a new generation who otherwise might not be acquainted with this Hollywood classic.
[Matthew Ebisu] is obsessed with all things Pixar. As one of the younger makers exhibiting, [Matthew’s] materials may be simpler, but his enthusiasm more than fills the gap. He’s built — and launched — Carl Fredricksen’s house from Up in miniature form. It didn’t quite reach South America, but did net him a pen pal in Nevada. His Autopilot and Eve droids from Wall-E are more craft than tech, so his latest project, along with a gaggle of like-minded friends on his D.I.Y. Pixar fan site, is to develop a working Wall-E robot.
So readers — is there a favorite Hollywood ’bot to credit for your passion for this hacking madness? And have you built one yet? A HAL-9000 in your kitchen? Tell us about it in the comments, or if you have a build log posted online somewhere, drop us a link at email@example.com.