Tag Archives: Star Wars Day

Creating an elaborate BB-8 replica


Inspired by BB-8, one Maker is bringing some Star Wars magic of his own to life with a ball-balancing robot. 


It didn’t take long for everyone (ourselves included) to fall in love with JJ Abrams’s adorable new BB-8 droids, who have stolen much of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens spotlight even before hitting theaters. As you can imagine, countless fans are already counting down the days before the arrival of what will surely be a holiday best-selling robot toy this year. However, instead of waiting, a number of Makers like James Burton have decided to take it into their own hands by devising fully-functioning replicas.

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Whereas the actual character is comprised of two separate parts (a remote-controlled body and a separately remote-controlled head), Burton’s latest project consists of a balancing robot that sits atop a 500mm diameter polysyrene ball serving as its body. This lightweight material gives more relative inertia, and therefore, stability for the droid positioned on top.

As seen when the robotic creature made its debut on stage in Anaheim, the “real” BB-8 features a robotic ball for its body with an independently-moving head that doesn’t fall off, which is clearly the work of physics and maybe some magnets?

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And this Maker has taken a somewhat similar approach. Gyroscopes and accelerometers from SparkFun are tasked with maintaining the ball-balancing robot’s equilibrium. Meanwhile, the Maker has employed an Arduino Pro Mini 5V (ATmega328), a couple motor drivers, a few DC motors, a level shifter, and of course, a set of omni wheels for multi-directional movement. These components are all mounted to a 3D-printed chassis and housed inside a 300mm acrylic hemisphere.

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With that working well, he also tried to make it remote-controlled. This required the addition of an RC receiver along with another Arduino that offsets the gyro value to make it roll in one direction. For a while, BB-8 was only capable of running on carpet; however, as you can imagine when trying to demonstrate the project at shows and other conventions, carrying around a small piece of rug could be quite tedious. So in an effort to solve this problem, Burton improved his design with some trial-and-error by adding ball bearings inside the hollow sphere, thereby emulating the slowness of carpet.

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With a little more 3D printing for additional details, such as its eyes, and some airbrushing of its exterior, Burton was just about complete with his impressive project — that is at least, until he begins a second version. For those of you who are familiar with this Maker’s work, it should come as no surprise that he has put together an extremely elaborate playlist of steps, which you can find below. Interested? You can find the project and its entire code on Github.

Maker creates a life-size replica of Han Solo


Baltimore-based Maker Todd Blatt recently devised a life-size replica of Han Solo in Carbonite.


Star Wars Day never seems to have a shortage of innovative projects paying homage to the epic space saga. As impressive as many of those may be, one in particular had caught our attention. That’s because Baltimore-based Maker Todd Blatt recently crafted a life-size replica of Han Solo in Carbonite, designed to match the version that appeared The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. From laser cutting to Bondo sculpting, the Maker employed a number of tools found throughout his Baltimore Node hackerspace.

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That Maker studio, however, is about to relocate to a new building and won’t be able to take the 1:1 Han Solo replica along with them. Blatt explains that it had been a commissioned project, and did not want to have to go through the daunting task of moving it time and time again.

“In the movies themselves, there aren’t very many shots of the frozen figure, and only two props are in existence in the Lucasfilm archives,” Technical.ly’s Stephen Babcock writes. “Blatt was buoyed early on after finding that he didn’t have to recreate the images of a trapped Harrison Ford. In 1996, a company called Illusive Concepts was licensed by the Star Wars empire to produce replicas.”

In order to construct the prop from a galaxy far, far away, the Maker tracked down its necessary body parts in rubber form, which he then assembled with the help of Bondo. Furthermore, Blatt found the original costume’s accurate dimensions that he used to recreate some of the pieces via 3D scans and AutoCAD, while acquiring its other components from an old record player and a camera viewfinder.

“But the power to recreate things digitally is insignificant next to the power of 1970s prop makers who were just using found objects that happened to be lying around the studio,” Babcock adds. “Those studios aren’t much different from Makerspaces like the Node, with lots of stuff lying around that gets turned into something else. Prop makers often don’t even remember what they used. In the case of Star Wars, it just so happened that what is later seen on the screen became a cultural touchstone.”

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Combining his inner Star Wars spirit with his Maker tenacity, Blatt was able to track down a Volvo 343 turn signal indicator, and make a mold to easily reproduce it. The other side features panels with LED lights, programmed through an Arduino that enables the lights to blink in a precise pattern. This code was written on the bottom panel, comprised of eight LED lights driven by an ATtiny45/85.

While Blatt has done his best, he tells Technical.ly that he realizes that the project can never be a truly perfect replica. Nevertheless, it was still pretty awesome!

15 Maker projects to celebrate Star Wars Day


May the 4th be with you, Makers!


As an engineer, or any geek for that matter, there’s just something in our DNA that requires us to become a die-hard Star Wars fan. And while many of us may pay homage to the George Lucas franchise on a regular basis, May 4th has emerged over the years as a full-fledged “unofficial” holiday — especially with the advent of the Internet, social media and other grassroots celebrations. Plus, the occasion couldn’t come at a better time as we eagerly await the upcoming trilogy.

According to its origin story recognized by Lucasfilm, and as legend has it, the phrase was first used on May 4, 1979 — the day Margaret Thatcher took office as UK prime minister. The Conservative party allegedly placed an ad in the London Evening News which read, “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.” Since then, movie buffs from all over the world have come together to honor everyone’s favorite space saga set in a galaxy far, far away.

Some things go together like peanut butter and jelly. Star Wars and the DIY crowd is one of them. From Makers rigging their own R2-D2s to hacking their own BB-8 droids to 3D printing their own lightsabers, we’ve highlighted some memorable out-of-this-world projects.

Playing the Imperial March with a 3D printer

While you’ve likely already created your very own Imperial Army of miniature Stormtroopers with a 3D printer, many of you probably haven’t rigged that same machine to play their anthem. Reddit user “silviustro” decided to trick his Printrbot Simple Metal into performing quite a spectacular rendition of the theme song by converting a MIDI file into a G-code that the device could easily understand.

Hacking a Sphero into a mini BB-8

When industrial designer Christian Poulsen first laid eyes on the adorable ball rolling around, it didn’t take long before he realized that he needed to build a BB-8 of his own. And what better way to accomplish that feat than by employing an AVR powered Sphero 1.0. The Maker divided the rolling robot with a hacksaw, used polyurethane foam surfaced with spackle for its head and added a neodymium magnet disc to connect the two halves. From there, the only other thing left was to don its exterior with an empire-approved paint job.

Wearing a Chewbacca coat with Arduino Lilypad

Winters can be brutal. Having to wear multiple layers to keep warm can be annoying. However, if you’re going to have to do so, you might as well do it in style. That’s why a Maker by the name of “Malarky” developed a Chewbacca coat that sounds the saga’s infamous tune whenever its collar is flipped up and turns off when put back down. The wearable piece is based on an Arduino Lilypad (ATmega328) along with a light sensor, a small LiPo battery, a few feet of conductive thread and a LilyPad buzzer that serves as its speaker.

Flying a TIE Interceptor drone

As a followup to his Millenium Falcon project that went viral, French RC hobbyist “Olivier C” crafted yet another quadcopter — this one inspired by the TIE Interceptor from Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. The build, which the Maker says took just about 15 hours to complete, actually consists of a light, foam insulate shell placed over a custom-built, ATmega2560 powered drone. In the end, Olivier had removed the transmitter, GPS system and GoPro camera from the copter to achieve its authentic look, while at least 14 propellers were sacrificed for the cause by the time it was done.

Decorating the walls with ‘Art’ Vader

The brainchild of Christopher Connell, this ambient Darth Vader poster can wirelessly react to music playing in a room with various LED color-changing effects. Comprised of chrome and black paint, flooring underlayment and some other traditional art supplies, the 4’ x 5’ piece is embedded with an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), a sound impact sensor, three MOSFETs, three 220k Ohm resistors, an LED strip, a pair of mini breadboards and a 12V battery pack.

Making a 3D-printed crossguard lightsaber

While countless 3D printable lightsabers may have already been available for download online, France-based Le FabShop figured it was time to make one that would be completely customizable. And so, the team devised their own modular system that opens the door to hundreds of lightsaber configurations from Yoda’s to Darth Maul’s to the latest “crossguard” design.

Shooting a full-size LEGO replica of Han Solo’s blaster

Julius von Brunk has pieced together a full-size replica of Han Solo’s iconic blaster using nothing but 400-plus LEGO bricks and an Arduino Uno (ATmega328). The slick gadget is equipped with a fully-functional trigger that sets off the DL-44’s lights and sounds, which of course are made possible with the Arduino.

Slipping into a DIY Stormtrooper mask

As part of last year’s Star Wars Day festivities, John Edgar Park of DisneyToon Studios designed a Stormtrooper helmet music box. Dubbed the Imperial Melody Discharger, the Maker’s creation was based on an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) with a prototyping shield, some soldered cable interconnects, a piezo buzzer and a Pololu Pushbutton Power Switch for power management. To perfect his build, Park programmed the Uno with a small sketch that instructed the board to wait for a button press, open the right half then the left half of the mask, play the Imperial March theme on the piezo buzzer and close the two mask halves.

Constructing a holocron thumb drive

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Up until now, most of us Star Wars fans could only stare wistfully at the holocron rendered on our HDTV screens. Fortunately, NoMuse has meticulously created an ATtiny85 based holocron thumb drive replica for the masses. Housed in a laser-cut acrylic shell fitted with translucent plastic and laminated the diffused panels, the Maker added some LED lighting effects and a LiPo battery for power. And to throw in some extra interaction, he included capacitance sensing to transform the entire top surface of the device into a button.

Controlling devices with modded EEG Star Wars toys

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Electroencephalography toys, such as the Star Wars Force Trainer, record the electrical activity along a wearer’s scalp. What’s more, turns out they’re not only inexpensive, they’re super easy to hack, too. A few years ago, Instructables engineer “Frenzy” was able to take some code from Frontier Nerds and use an old Arduino Diecimila (ATmega168) to read the output of the EEG toy on his computer. From there, the rig could be used to make a mind-controlled musical instrument, a wearable TV remote, or even let a user surf the web with their thoughts.

Rolling a blinky Death Star

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Many may argue that the Death Star is one of, if not, the coolest super weapons to ever spawn from human fantasy. So, in true Maker/movie buff fashion, creative technologist Simone Giertz whipped up a plush version that compensates for its smaller radius by playing the Imperial March theme and illuminating in a green LED when rolled. The project itself employed a LightBlue Bean (ATmega328P), an LED, a piezzo buzzer, two resistors and a pair of AA batteries — all sewn into the toy.

Navigating the skies in a Stormtrooper hoverbike

Want to ride into work like a Stormtrooper? While hoverbikes may not be ready for your daily commute just yet, thanks to UK-based Malloy Aeronautics, we’re now closer than ever. After successfully completing its Kickstarter campaign last year, the firm has debuted a one-third sized version of its design to help fund the full-sized prototype. The 1.15 meter-long mini replica can carry payloads of around 1.5kg and weighs in at 2.2kg unladen. While in the sky, the ATmega32U4 powered drone can not only be commanded remotely, but can follow predetermined flight paths automatically as well. Meanwhile, the mini-hoverbike also comes equipped with a third-scaled, 3D-printed humanoid ‘pilot’ complete with a space on its head specifically-designed for a GoPro camera. Impressively, the futuristic prototype has the potential to travel up to 92 miles or for about 45 minutes on a single tank of fuel, with a 3,048-meter maximum altitude and a top speed of around 45 MPH.

Modding an R2-D2 with Arduino

Thomas Hatley removed the inner electronics of the highly-popular Hasbro toy, and replaced with an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280) in addition to a custom PCB in its back to help drive the motors embedded within the droid. Ultimately, this enabled the droid to spin its head and its extremities. The R6 is juiced up with a 6V battery, while a 5V regulator provides the connection up to the Arduino in its brain.

3D printing a R6 droid

James Bruton 3D-printed a slick R6 robot using his Luzlbot machine. Packed with an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), some Adafruit NeoPixels and a number of other electronics like a standard transmitter and receiver, the astromech droid is capable of driving around at various speeds, emitting LED lights and producing other Star Wars-eqsue effects. The Maker used standard R/C car electronic speed controllers to drive the wheels and an L298 Dual H-bridge board to drive the head. The servos are mixed using the Uno, while two batteries are tasked with powering the lights and animatronics.

Getting support from a Star Wars theremin bra

Just when you thought you’ve seen every project possible, one Instructables member “caitlinsdad” comes up with an undergarment that generates R2-D2 beep-boop noises whenever anybody comes close. The bra is packed with several LEDs, an Adafruit FLORA (ATmega32U4), a photocell detector and an ultrasonic range sensor. The wearable is designed to react like a theremin, so the sound varies based how the proximity of others