Lots o’ updates part two

Hello fellow astromech builders and those of you who either want to build, or like to watch, or just have nothing better to do…

I’ll admit that I didn’t think I’d get to a point anytime soon where I could say “He’s done!!!”, but sadly, that time has come. Now I have no reason to blog more about the build aside from this update – okay, I’ll try to keep updates when I have time with things I’m going to do to improve upon the work I did on R2 v 1.0…

Yes, that means I hope to do a 1.5 or even 2.0 version. Unless my time is taken up by building a full size flying Delorean…

So here’s a blow by blow of work I had to get done before August 25th and Sunday the 26th, as our church (the Rock San Diego) wanted to use him for the final installment of the “In the movies” series. This gave me less than a few weeks to really ramp up on building and get him done.

R2 was pretty much ready as far as the structure, but I still needed now to install the electronics, test the motors and controllers, especially the foot motor controller, as I planned to use my 15 year old Vantec from my first entertainment robot (which I originally built and ran at Sea World as well as swanky parties in La Jolla 30 years ago…) and older 6 channel FM Futaba radio.

The first thing I needed was something to mount my electronics on. So I dug through my stuff, and then decided to use a donated part from my old robot (aside from the controller and radio). I had originally a drink tray made for “Victor” from plexiglas that had an insert to hold glasses as he worked his way around party guests, serving drinks and making general funny comments (supplied by me by wireless mic).

The top cover of the tray looked to be about the right size.

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And it was, just needing to remove the tab on the side..

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Then it was on to laying out and attaching the electronics.
This consisted of the feet motor controller (the big box with the transistors on top..talk about really old school), the dome motor controller, a power distribution board to take 12 volts to 5 volts for the radio receiver, the receiver, a fuse block, some terminal strips, and switches for the single 12 volt battery as well as the two 12 volt batteries hooked up in parallel for the motors.

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After that, I needed to install, or rather create, a way to hold my bluetooth wireless speaker. So I thought of an erector set, and went out and got some angled aluminum with the holes, and made this bracket. It worked perfectly..

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So now that all the electronics were hooked up, it was time to attach the motors and wheels to their respective wires and test him out before attaching the feet to the legs. At first it seemed to work well. The motors moved in the correct direction, though the left side seemed to not want to work intermittently… Not good. So I kept testing, and it seemed to work itself out. I’d do most of my testing at night, or early in the morning.

Then one Saturday I was testing, not so early in the morning. And trouble happened. The motors would move on their own when the transmitter was on, and not just in one direction, but jiggle, shake, and go pretty much all wonky. My first thought was that it was the old motor controller, but it was doing it with the dome controller as well… So it had to be the radio. I had read online that older FM r/c radios were susceptible to common wireless phones we use in our homes, since they run pretty much on the same FM frequency. Being that it was now about when people were up doing things, the transmitter was picking up those signals. Not good, especially if I was going to use R2 in public. Time to get a new radio.

This is not an expense I wanted or had planned on. Fortunately I found a great deal on a Spektrum 6 channel radio and receiver combo, which is digital so there would be no worries of any radio interference. I took out the old receiver and put in the new one, and then moved onto getting R2’s feet installed.

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The next step was to lock down the legs so they wouldn’t splay out behind R2. I was going to go with Mike Senna’s method of using another piece of angle iron tied into the center foot rails and then clamped to the gas pipe axle, but decided to drill some holes and use two lag screws on each side. This would pull the legs in to the body as well as prevent them from moving at all.

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Now it was time to test him out on carpet. At first I had decided to go 24 volts by hooking up the two 12 volt batteries in series. Two issues came from this. One, the rear feet really kicked up when going into reverse (they’d need to be locked down to the ankles, which I’ll cover later), and two, even at 24 volts R2 seemed sluggish, where again the right foot wouldn’t behave…then he just stopped. The dome motor worked fine, but nothing when I tried the feet motors. So I checked the fuses. Both 10 amp fuses were blown. So I put in new ones. Still nothing. The controller was dead.
Now I needed a new one, as my deadline was only 5 days away.

Time for eBay! Amazingly, there was a guy selling the controller I needed, and well within what I could spend, and to top that off he lived near my work…(for believers, THAT is how good God is…and only He could have made that happen. For non- believers, well, that’s how God is, and this kind of stuff happens all the time when you have Him in your life…). Two days before the weekend, as I had to have R2 at the church for rehearsal, I met the guy and got a brand new Vantec rdfr23 controller. That night I pulled out the electronics panel and hooked up the new controller. Note that the controller even says “R2” on it…wow.

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And yes, had to have a photo of my daughter as Princess Leia with R2… (she’s a professional Princess Leia).

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I decided to change R2 to run on 12 volts vs. 24, and then tested him out with his new motor controller. This all on Friday night, LATE, as I work all day, then we had to go to a birthday dinner for my father-in-law. Which went late. Needless to say, R2 ran almost perfectly..aside form his rear foot shells kicking up when going in reverse… Something I needed to fix, but really no time. I was tired as it was after midnight and it was time to get some rest. Oh, and he wanted to drive a little more to the left…no biggie as I would just pull the stick more to the right to compensate.

The next afternoon, my son and I rolled R2 out to the droid transport vehicle (our Honda Element), tied him down, and went off to the church for a brief run- through.

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We got there and we’re greeted by the one of the production guys, rolled him into the church and then lifted him up on the stage, although I was hoping we’d be able to run him on from backstage the next day. We tried out some moves and blocked out where he was supposed to go, checked on how he ran on stage, and then headed home. And yes, the feet kicked up in reverse. So on the way home we got some shelf brackets. I had tried using cotton board cut into wedges, but they just kept falling out…

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Next thing I knew it was Sunday morning and R2’s big debut- which was to be in front of a total of 15,000 people at the church throughout the day plus another couple thousand or so watching online live – talk about pressure.

Here’s the setup- one of the Pastors comes out onstage to make some announcements dressed as a Jedi while they play the Star Wars theme as he comes on, and the he drags out a box decorated to look like R2.

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When he mentions that’s all they could afford, since R2 replicas are so expensive to buy online, that’s my cue to roll R2 from out behind the curtain.

Here’s R2 getting mic’d. Also we got to go in from backstage past the green room, then by all the cables and stuff they keep on shelves, and then to our spot stage right.

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And R2 next to the box R2 waiting for his time to go on.

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As the worship band would do their last song in their set, I’d turn on R2’s dome, put it on, then power him up, test a little movement, and then put on the back door ready to rock and roll.

First service- 8:00 am. Pastor Mingo goes out on stage, then pulls out the cardboard R2, people laugh, and then time to roll out R2. People cheer wildly, and I get R2 up to him, have R2 loom at the box, make a sad sound, then at the pastor, make a disappointed sound, then push the box out of the way, every so often interrupting the pastor as he’s making announcements.

Then the lights go out to show a video and that’s my cure to roll R2 back to the curtain and backstage. So I have him moving at a good clip, but fail to see a panel on the floor that’s kind of too high for R2 to take. So he stops dead, and in slow- motion does his first official face-plant. The good thing is it was kind of dark, and people online were seeing the video. And well, okay…not so great. R2’s dome falls off and rolls a few feet, some run out, pick up R2 and his dome, one of the stage hands collects his dome batteries, and we get him backstage for me to inspect for any damage. Overall he looked fine, no dents, nothing pushed in, a small break to the wood large days port which I shoved back into place, and the dome was fine. I put the batteries back in and it lit up okay. So then we needed to move R2 to the lobby for photo opportunities after service, and would have to do this routine all day for 5 services. The good thing is R2 ran fine all day. As a matter of fact, the fall seemed to correct the steering problem I had when we first got to the church..

Here’s R2 with my daughter for the photo op. At noon we had a line of about 50 families wanting their photo with R2.

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At 9:30 it was time to roll R2 out to the transport, load him up and head home.

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