Category Archives: Uncategorized

Force Awakens premiere

I was extremely honored to be able to take R2 to the White House premiere of The Force Awakens.  The premiere was being held for Gold Star families (families that lost a parent in war).  As a retired veteran I was so honored to attend.  We also took shots of R2 around the White House.

The second best part was after the event, I had loaded ‘Uptown Funk’ on R2 in case we met the First Lady as she said it was her favorite song.  We were all alone in the Diplomatic Reception room with just the President, First Lady and obviously secret service.  So I decided to play the song, and the First Lady said ‘That’s my favorite song, how did you now?’ and proceed to dance along with the President and the First Order troops there for the premiere.  Priceless event! 

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama join Gold Star families, R2-D2 and two storm troopers from Star Wars for a group photo in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Dec. 18, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

UPDATE:  The White House posted part of the dancing video on Youtube on May 4th, 2016

He doesn’t fit!?!?!?!!

I was getting ready to take R2 to its first event, the January meeting of the Washington DC Area Star Wars Collecting Club (DCSWCC).  I’ve been a member since 2003 and our topic for this meeting is droid building.  Greg, Izzy and Mike are all attending with their droids or pieces/parts of droids.

I thought R2 could fit into our Chevy Traverses cargo area for me to transport him around, I was wrong.  Even with the dome off he is still about two inches too tall.  Fortunately Izzy had room to take my droid, but now I need to figure out how I’m going to get him to events — and buying a new car isn’t one of them!

Does not fit


IMG_2987Are they really ever done?  My R2 is officially complete and ready for action.  I finished painting the rocket booster covers this past weekend thanks to unseasonably warm weather (70 degrees in late December!).  I purchased a set of resin booster covers as the styrene ones were a lot of pieces/parts and I just wanted to get him done.

Of course I already have a list of upgrades that I want to do, some were planned from the beginning others have come out through the build process.

Future Upgrades:

  1. Lightsaber popup – this includes the dome panel retracting (I’m a Luke Jedi collector so this is a necessity of course!)
  2. Charging port – I’m tired of having to pull out the battery to charge R2.  I’ve installed a dpdt switch that allows me to both turn him on, but also connect a charger.  Just need to work on the parts of the charging port.
  3. Weathering – as a good friend says, he’s showroom new, but eventually all R2s will become weathered.  I have a few dings on my otherwise perfectly clean R2
  4. R5 or R6 dome – want to be able to quickly switch between astromechs.  I’ve seen a few events were there are plenty of R2s and not many of the others.


Padawan system

Got all the pieces and parts for the Padawan system and worked on getting it hooked up.   Took the dome and the control panel over to Izzy’s so he could upload the dome sketch.  He customized the sketch so that ‘Luke Jedi’ scrolls across the top front logic display – how awesome is that!  Here is a picture of his dining room table as we work on R2.


Everything seemed to work fine, but R2 ‘jumps’ every so often, both the drive motors and the dome motor will move smoothly then all the sudden there is a ‘jump’.

To troubleshoot, I re-checked all the wires, made sure they were secure and connected to the correct location.  I reprogrammed the Uno and re-checked the settings on the Sabertooth and Siren motor controllers.  Finally, I hooked the Arduino Uno up to my laptop and used the PS2 library and serial monitor to see what commands were coming from the GameStop PS2 controller.

Bingo!  The controller was actually sending bad information sporadically.  I wouldn’t be touching it and it would be fine for a few seconds and then bam it would send a one line command indicating movement.  I bought the controller used through eBay since my local game exchange store didn’t have one.

I ended up buying another controller, this one was a Pelican brand.  That one didn’t work at all.  It would not communicate from the wireless receiver to the Uno.

During my troubleshooting, I messaged Dan F on the astromech forums and he was very quick and helpful in providing advice on getting the system working.

I saw that the DroidWiki Padawan page recommended the LynxMotion remote so I ordered one.  It arrived, I connected it to my unit and nothing.

I then ordered a new but generic PS2 wireless controller on ebay (  for $11.  While that one was in the mail, I stopped by another local GameStop and they had a new Gamestop brand controller for $20 so I bought that one too.

Izzy offered to check the controllers on his working droid, I can’t thank him enough for all his help.  He even lent me his controller so that my droid was operational for my kids birthday party.

Turns out both the GameStop brand and the generic one from eBay worked perfectly with the Padawan system in his unit so I installed them in mine and IT WORKS!!!!.  So now I have a backup controller.  He wasn’t able to get the LynxMotion controller working either so something must have changed hardware-wise since the wiki link was posted.

Connecting the pins from the wireless receiver to the Uno can be problematic in that they might not always maintain a connection.  If you have a local game exchange store, check to see if they have a PS2 extension cable.  I stopped by mine and the person gave me the extension cable for free as he had a whole box full.

I cut the extension cable about six inches from the connector, stripped the outer jack to expose the wires, and then soldered on dupont pins.  This allows me to connect the extension cable directly to the Uno and then simply plug in the wireless receiver.  No more forcing connectors over the receiver pins.

Controller: $11
Backup controller $20


Dome topper and bumps

There are so many different ideas of what to use for a dome topper on the boards.  I decided to go with a hand-cut styrene 1mm washer plus a 3/8″ axle cap nut that I bought at Lowes for $X.  I rub-n-buffed the styrene washer and painted the axle cap blue.


I think it looks ok.


Also got some resin dome bumps from Izzy and painted those as well.

Dome Bumps

Axle cap nut: $
Resin dome bumps: $

Coin returns – no money here

Been procrastinating on the coin returns as they are all hand-cut and made from 1mm styrene which is flimsy.  Plus with the cold weather its been hard to find a good day to work outside and you must work outside with the Weld-On.

This wasn’t as hard as I imagined and it went fairly quickly.  Again, I used the rub-n-buff to turn them silver.  I wish I had done all the silver parts in rub-n-buff now that I know how to apply it.

Here is a picture of R2, the only thinks that are left are the dome bumps, dome topper and the booster covers – almost done!



First upgrade already

Its not even done yet and I’m upgrading it, I’m sure this won’t be the last either.

After seeing Izzy’s droid with the Padawan sound system, I’ve decided to upgrade from the iPod/Bluetooth speaker straight to the Padawan system.  I have the parts for the ThinkGeek sound system but am going to skip that ‘step’.

I ordered the following from SparkFun

Arduino Uno R3
Arduino Pro Mini 328
MP3 Trigger
Total: $90.00