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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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