17-year-old Angelo Casimiro decided to build a fully-functional, smartphone-controlled BB-8.
Until Episode VII came out, if you were a true Star Wars fan, building a working R2-D2 replica would seem like the thing to do. With the emergence of BB-8, R2 now has competition for the coolest robot in the galaxy, and for which droid you should recreate.
At first glance the BB-8, with its continuously-rotating body and a head that always stays nearly upright, looks like something that could only be made with computer graphics on a movie set. 17-year-old Maker Angelo Casimiro, however, proves that isn’t the case with his life-size, phone-controlled toy. The best part of it all? According to his exhaustive tutorial, the project should cost only around $120 — a little less than Sphero’s miniature device.
The physics student from De La Salle University in the Philippines was able to purchase most of the items from a hardware store while recycling pretty much everything else, like a Christmas ball for its eye, an old Wi-Fi router antenna, and roll-on deodorant balls for the mechanism of the droid’s head to keep it upright. BB-8’s head is made from styrofoam, and the body is a beach ball reinforced with papier-mâché.
The secret to his BB-8 build is that inside the sphere is a two-wheeled vehicle. When it moves, this vehicle rolls around inside, changing the ball’s center of gravity and causing it to go across the floor. (Think of it like a giant hamster ball.) The head, in turn, is stuck to the top of the spherical body via a structure inside of the ball made out of wood and magnets. Control is accomplished using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) with a motor shield and a Bluetooth module, which allows it to take signals from a smartphone via the “Arduino Bluetooth RC Car” app. There’s even an MP3 module and speaker that enables it to beep and talk just like in the film.
Though the concept of this bot is likely simpler than what you would have thought it would take to produce one of these, it still took a lot of work from several people to get things perfect! If you’d like to try it yourself, Casimiro has provided a detailed overview video, as well as a 47-step tutorial over on Instructables.