... and the Jedi Code
can see how the final design works.”
As for how to power an R/C astromech, apparently,
there is some very fancy footwork involved. Smith offers the
following recommendations: “I cannot say enough good
things about the Robot Power Scorpion XL dual-speed
controller for the foot drives. This little $120 unit learns your
radio, shuts down in signal loss, has dual or single-stick
control, direct output throttle, or sweep exponential control
(and has a) battery eliminator that powers the receiver. I
have not heard of one fried controller in the field as of yet.”
“For foot motors, many (R2 Builders) were using
surplus motors and finding ways to adapt them to a good
gear ratio wheeled drive. But since the electric scooters
have become popular, one can afford to buy a pair of
scooters and hack/modify the frame to fit in the foot.
Scooter parts are also now hitting the surplus and
aftermarket parts suppliers. One can get a pre-fab drive
system that goes much faster for way cheaper today than
the options we had just a few years ago.”
Members of the R2 Builders Club enjoy meeting other
Builders in person, and there are many opportunities for
them to do so. There are regional groups, such as the
New England (NE) Builders ( www.r2-r9.com/Gallery_
R2-MA.html) and the Midwest Builders (http://stevesr2.
mid-west-r2.html), who gather from time to time.
Regional R2 Builders groups may meet up at one area
Builder’s shop to make parts or just spend time together.
The NE Builders get together every six months or so.
Someone will have a barbecue and the Builders will swap
stories and catch up with each other’s news. For larger
gatherings of Builders, there are always comic book
conventions and fan-based conferences (for example, Star
Wars Celebrations ( www.starwars.com/celebration/),
San Diego Comic Con ( www.comic-con.org/cci/), and
Dragon Con ( www.dragoncon.org/)). At such events,
R2BC members exhibit their droids, lead panel
discussions, and hold workshops. Celebration III featured
50 fan-built droids on display. George Lucas even viewed
the R2 replicas at that event, much to the delight of the
Builders. Over the years, the R2 Builders Club has also
developed a unique relationship with Lucasfilm Limited —
George Lucas’ production company — and the creative
force behind the Star Wars movies. When I asked Jerry
Greene to characterize Lucasfilm’s relationship with R2BC,
he said, “As long as we play nice, they leave us alone.”
Well, apparently they do play nice, because Lucasfilm has
called on an R2 Builder or two from time to time to ask a
favor — and, on at least one occasion, to grant a favor.
According to Wookiepedia, the Star Wars wiki
( http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page), the
R2BC’s “official club logo was adopted by the Lucasfilm
R2-D2 Unit for their crew gear during the filming of
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones in Australia.”
Needless to say, the club’s members were thrilled at
this nod to their work. Greene also informed me that
Lucasfilm has contacted R2 Builders in the New York City
and Los Angeles areas to request that their astromech
droids make appearances at movie premieres. For a Star
Wars fan and R2 replica builder, attending a premiere at
the behest of Lucasfilm must be a dream come true. A red
carpet event must prove a most exciting venue in which to
show off an astromech droid that was years in the making.
Greene also commented that Don Bies, a Modelmaker
and R2-D2 Operator for Industrial Light and Magic (ILM)
who has worked on several Star Wars movies, is a member
of the R2 Builders Club (see www.donbies.com/bio.htm).
When Bies needed a spun aluminum, laser-cut, R2 dome to
use in Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, he
knew who to call: Master R2-Dome Creator and fellow
R2BC member Ron Barkley. Ron’s dome appears in a scene
in which an R2 unit’s dome is ripped off of a ship. No
matter how brief the scene, I have little doubt that R2
Builders the world over are immensely proud of it.
The Jedi are “a noble order of
protectors unified by their belief
and observance of the Force.”2
To say that Albin Johnson is an active member of the
Star Wars community would be a vast understatement.
Albin is the founder of Vader’s Fist: 501st Legion (The
World’s Definitive Imperial Costuming Organization). His
501st Legion not only entertains Star Wars fans during their
appearances, this group works year-round to raise money for
charitable organizations worldwide. Albin is greatly admired
and respected for his devotion to his family, as well as his
R2BC droids on display at Celebration IV.
SERVO 05.2008 45