Monday, May 23, 2011

DroidCon photos

Here are photos from the world's first DroidCon. It took place the weekend before last, from Friday, May 13, 2011, to Sunday, May 15, 2011, at the Hilton Garden Inn near the Indianapolis airport. Donna and I attended (at least, I attended DroidCon, and she explored the Indianapolis art world during the day).

Cory Pacione gives a weathering demonstration.

The last time I saw John Flack's R6, at CV in Orlando, it was a very well made wooden frame with legs. His effort was apparent. Nine months later, on the first day of DroidCon, he had just gotten it to walk and had given it a voice with a VMusic/Arduino setup. John followed group plans for the frame but cut everything by hand, not by CNC machine.

Ben Lewitt uses his R2 to demonstrate the JEDI control system, which was largely the project of Scott Gray (at table)

Chris Simonds borrowed Chris James' wording for his charging bay. Simonds used a piece of black acrylic in the bay itself and has a set of LEDs wired to blink when the batteries charge. (The bay isn't cosmetic; that's a cigarette lighter receptacle in Chris' R2. He's hooked up a DC connector, wires and a charger to make his charging circuit.)

I had some questions about how to mount skin snaps on my droid, so I went to the source -- Daren Murrer, who invented the things and attended DroidCon. Above are the front skins on his blue R2. The skin snaps are the black devices to the left.

Scott Gray works on JEDI system code.

Observing ... someone's shoulder mounts. And that looks like an A&A frame, just like mine. But I don't remember whose droid this is.

One of the DroidCon highlights was seeing and hearing a PowerPoint argument for R2's restraining bolt being a found item in the form of a lens adaptor common in the 1970s. This is one on Daren's R2.

Original R2 plans.

Daren holds a set of skins for his R2.

Royalty. She drew a crowd.

An R2 unit in prime condition.

Brian's (Bryan's?) green R2. Of course, I'm looking here at the Robart hinges he used to mount the pie plates.

Bob Ross and George ? with Bob's R2 in the foreground and my much-unfinished R2 on the table in pieces in the background. Bob gave a great presentation about his modular approach to building an R2.

I found out at the end of the convention, when I was packing up my parts, that my droid was the "mystery droid" of the convention. People were looking over the scratch-built wooden legs and foot drives and so forth and wondering whose they were, apparently. But I was off looking at other people's droids and I hadn't brought my CV builder standee!

One valuable lesson I learned at DroidCon was that I mucked up my rear PSI area. Cole Horton, one of the people who with Daren Murrer makes the styrene domes, said during a presentation about domes that the rear PSI light's surround actually is the inner dome. This makes it unlike any other panel I'm aware of on R2. But a few weekends ago, I cut a square hole around the light with the idea that the hole would be covered by the panel. So ... I'm thinking I might be able to tape the inside of the dome and use Evercoat to fill in the gaps. I don't know whether that will work, but it's going to bug me until I fix it.

Hey, if I got nothing else out of DroidCon, that tidbit was worth it. Above is Brian's (Bryan's?) rear PSI, finished correctly.

And looking over the leg mounting.

That's Brian/Bryan in the center and John in the rear, trying out a fresh 9-volt battery for the green R2. The old one was too drained to let the motor system work. The new one worked, and soon the droid was zipping around the room.

At this point in Cole and Daren's "Everything Dome" presentation, Cole described some concerns people in the group had about their attempt to make a styrene, rather than aluminum, dome. Will it be strong enough, Cole said as he put the dome on the floor and stood on it, to hold up a radar eye????

Visual aids often beat pure verbal expressions.

I think this is Chris Lee's A&A frame, which was for sale. Chris also had some business cards out for his Full Scale Falcon project.

Another DroidCon gem: Cole and Daren brought some "real" holoprojectors, overhead reading lights used in the Vickers Viscount 700 series and BAE 748 airplane. The real thing is difficult to get now. Mine are resin, and I happy with them. But it was great holding the original prop pieces, turning them over and just seeing them in front of me. Chris Simonds holds them so I can get some photos.

Bob's R2's foot hoses. I was told they came preweathered from Mike Velchek.

Preparing for a group photo. The Jawa, next to royalty, is holding one of my wooden legs.

My personal mascot. Donna gave me this stuffed Yoda just before I went to CV last year, and I made sure I brought him to DroidCon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

DroidCon quick note

I've spent the last few days catching up with work, but I'm reposting a letter sent to one of the organizers of last weekend's DroidCon regarding the disposition of money raised beyond what was needed to pay for the hotel conference rooms:

May 18, 2011

Dear Mr. Gerald Greene (R2-D2 Builders Group),

Thank you for your recent gift of $327.50 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America. Your gift will have a profound, positive impact on the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Your generous support helps us grant the wishes of children at a time when they need inspiration. Your compassion brings hope, strength and joy into their lives -- and into the lives of their families.

We deeply appreciate your personal commitment to the Make-A-Wish Foundation's work. You have truly made a difference to the children we serve. If you have any questions about your donation, please contact our Donor Care specialists toll-free at 1 (866) 880-1382, or via e-mail at Please include your transaction number with any correspondence.


David Williams,
President & Chief Executive Officer

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

ThinkGeek sound project

This past weekend, I followed Alex Kung's tutorial for combining a ThinkGeek Personal Soundtrack Shirt and a 12-channel remote into a budget sound system for R2. A CF-III system (click here for a link to the commercial module and here for a link to an R2 builder's tutorial showing how to combine it with a remote) would be nice and appears to be getting to be fairly common in the R2-D2 Builders Club, but I wanted to first put a project such as this together and second save on the cost of a high-end system. CF-III or its successor will go into the someday/maybe heading of my to-do list.

Chris James, of the R2 Builder's Group, has posted some advanced ideas about the CF-III system.

Back to my own ThinkGeek sound system project.


  • Easy to put together.
  • Pretty cheap (about $20 for the T-shirt, down from $40, I think, and another $25 or so for the remote, plus miscellaneous wires, connectors and so forth).
  • Uses mp3 sound files and a card, which makes changing the sounds easy.


  • The provided speaker isn't very loud.
  • The single-remote setup allows only 10 R2 sounds.
  • As Alex points out in his tutorial, there is a slight delay between pressing a button on the remote and hearing the sound.
  • The remote receiver assembly uses relays to close and open circuits, and each click is audible and distracting, at least without an enclosure
Alex's tutorial explains the nuts and bolts. His idea of using a lighting circuit to demonstrate the remote was good. I used an LED instead of a lamp.


And on:

I also checked the remote receiver's relay using a multimeter.

A measurement of infinite resistance:

and one of little resistance once the relay closed the circuit:

This was the arrangement after I finished putting together the wires. I also replaced the ThinkGeek speaker with a 75-cent 8-ohm speaker from AllElectronics and thought the volume was better.

Next steps
  • I stripped far too much insulation off the wires I connected to the remote receiver's terminal blocks and am concerned about the possibility of exposed leads touching; I'll cut and strip new wires.
  • I'll put the arrangement into an enclosure.
  • Fairly soon, I'll need to decide on batteries for the droid and settle on a power system. The remote receiver uses 12 volts for the relays. The ThinkGeek part of the sound system is set up with four AAA batteries, which I'll want to replace.