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CCC-created R2-D2 makes debut at ‘Star Wars’ premiere

December 15, 2017

COLUMBUS — Joe Rohloff has seen a lot of die-hard movie fans dressed as characters for premieres.

The manager of Center 7 Theatre recalls a group of people decked out as Storm Troopers for the opening night of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Seeing people in costume isn’t out of the ordinary, but one special visitor who showed up at the theater Thursday evening for the latest installment of the “Star Wars” franchise was a first for Rohloff.

“We’ve never had that before,” he said.

Scooting along the tile floor outside the ticket booth was a white and blue character familiar to any “Stars Wars” fan.

It was R2-D2, the droid that lived in a galaxy far, far away.

A replica of the movie character was created by Central Community College-Columbus students in the advanced manufacturing and design technology (AMDT) lab on campus.

Students and AMDT instructor Leon Finecy brought their creation to the premiere of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” for its public debut.

The shell was created by student Mike Boeding of Columbus using a 3-D printer. James Howe took the project a step further by turning the body into a movable robot.

“They let me take it home. I was part of robotics in high school so I transferred everything I knew from that to this,” Howe said.

The CCC-C student from Aurora started working on the project in September, using random scraps of metal, donated motors and other parts to put it together. It was only about a week ago when all the motorized pieces were put together by Howe and other students.

Using a remote control, the robot can move in all directions and rotate its head. There is also a speaker installed to add the classic R2-D2 beep and boop sounds. Plans are to add lights and a third leg in front for more stability.

Howe said being part of the project has been fun because he and his dad are “Star Wars” fans.

“This is great. My dad is almost 50. He grew up with ‘Star Wars’ and has all the figurines and records,” Howe said. “When I was building it he said, ‘This is the coolest thing since I married your mother.’”

R2-D2 was available for photo ops at the theater and the plan is to bring it back from 5:45-9 p.m. Friday.

The robot is the actual size of R2-D2, about 3 1/2 feet tall, and weighs approximately 50 pounds without the battery.

Logan Plock, a CCC-C student from Stromsburg, also helped with the project.

“Piecing everything together and watching it come to life was crazy,” he said.

It is mostly made of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic, the same plastic used for Lego toys. Other materials include wood for the struts and cut-up plastic soda bottles in places where light needs to show through. It took about a semester to print all the pieces and put them together through welding or gluing.

Finecy said the goal was to get the robot out sooner, but the building process took longer than expected.

“We didn’t have it fully functional. This year we had some new students come in with some new ideas, put some equipment on it, and we were able to make it for this year’s movie,” Finecy said.

He said the project combines skills needed for 3-D printing, mechatronics and robotics. It serves a few purposes beyond academics.

“Last year I threw out the idea that I wanted something that we could build that we could take out for recruiting purposes and also be something for service projects for SkillsUSA. With SkillsUSA we like to go out in the community and do community service,” Finecy said.

He hopes they can also take R2-D2 to children’s hospitals to help cheer up patients.

“I think they’d get a kick out of it,” Finecy said.