If you don’t like Star Wars, it’s best to save yourself the trouble and stop reading right now.

Now, if you love the Star Wars franchise, keep reading and have your hearts melted.

(Image Credit: Star Wars)

I’m a Star Wars nerd, I can admit it. I have no shame when it comes to being able to quote most of The Empire Strikes Back or knowing that the term “ewoks” is never actually mentioned in Return of the Jedi.

When my friend and colleague, Mike Martin, posted a project on Facebook that took him and his friend, Ian, 13 months and $3,500 dollars to complete – I may or may not have gotten teary-eyed. Every Star Wars fan dream come true now resides in Mike’s house. A real life, built-to-scale, R2D2.

(Photo Credit: Mike Martin)

I had to ask Mike about this adventure of his.

Star Wars stands out as a time when everything was normal and right in my world.

“I’ve always been an avid Star Wars fan. I remember watching “A New Hope” in the movie theater as a nine year old kid. My father passed away two years later, so Star Wars stands out as a time when everything was normal and right in my world. R2D2 is an iconic and immediately recognizable character from the Star Wars universe, and my friend Ian and I thought it would be cool to build one. Basically, this was a case of Star Wars nerds with too much time and too much money on their hands.

R2 started out as a 4′ x 8′ sheet of Baltic Birch Plywood that we had cut into 2′ x 2′ sections. After reading something like this Digital Engineering article, my friend Ian made the decision to invest in a CNC machine that is accompanied by a computer-aided manufacturing software, as well as a 3D-Printer. Now, I’m not quite sure why he wanted them for, but he has since decided to utilize the files from Astromech.net, we were able to cut out the frame and legs. Astromech.net is a world wide forum for droid builders and had all the CNC files, and 3D printer files we needed. See the CNC work is so cool! If you’re interested and want to learn more, here’s a brief history of cnc machines.

(Photo Credit: Mike Martin)
(Photo Credit: Mike Martin)
(Photo Credit: Mike Martin)

On the forums, builders sell different items. We decided, for the ultimate droid, we needed an aluminum dome and aluminum skins. Kids love to touch R2, and aluminum gives it that sense of realism.

After he was completed, we started taking him to a lot of Maker’s Fairs in the area, trying to raise interest in STEM. It’s been cool to see the kids tell their parents they want to build their own R2 too!

(Photo Credit: Mike Martin)

R2 is composed of the following:

  • Wood frame and legs
  • Aluminum skin and dome
  • 3D and resin cast parts
  • 24-volt battery
  • Arduino computer

Nothing makes a sick child forget their problems more than R2D2.

So why did we do it? My wife, Debbie, and I were sitting around the dinner one night, soon after our son, Gregory, joined the Army. Debbie talked about how she wanted to get involved with a charity, to give something back to the world. R2 gives us both the chance to raise money for charity. We’ve worked a lot with Seattle Children’s Hospital, and other organizations and nothing makes a sick child forget their problems more than R2D2. Honestly, Debbie and I have sat in the car after an event and bawled our eyes out.”

(Photo Credit: Mike Martin)

I am so proud to know people like Mike and Debbie (and through them, Ian). Their real-life R2D2 is going to inspire so many kids to look into pursuing a STEM career, and will also bring some comfort to kids who are battling for their lives each and every day.

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