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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Post Script - 4 years later

Well, it's been a little more than 4 years since I posted the last blog entry here.  Since then, all robots have been sold and are happily living all around the country. 

The B9 Lost in Space robot now resides in a conference room of a successful Robotics company in Indiana ... the kind of robotics that run in factories and manufacturing facilities.

Robby the Robot lives in a computer museum in Bozeman Montana and Yvonne and I were lucky enough to be able to stop by and visit him on our way home from Alaska this past summer.  Also the Virgil Finlay Bus Stop Robots were also donated to the museum and have been on display there.

R2 and C3PO live in a private residence southern California just outside of San Diego and are still together as they didn't want to be split up.

Selling Bender was an eye opener.  Where he was one of the more popular Robots at conventions, it was very difficult finding a buyer for him so I practically gave him away.  And he was a lot of work to build.  He now happily lives in Las Vegas at a private residence and I'm quite sure at night he can be seen sneaking into casinos and some of the more risque areas of the city.  He was ecstatic when he heard he was going to Vegas.

The one Robot I kept was the battle droid.  He sits on a garden bench holding a butterfly and occasionally playing a trumpet while contemplating his previous life and the role he played in the great Clone wars.  He now lives a peaceful existence keeping watch over our Bee Farm.

I still occasionally build robots but they are more abstract art creations and some of them will reside in a new mini farm we're building.  The farm is completely solar powered, has bee hives, and organic fruits and vegetables.  Blog is @

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Final Story?

After going to Celebration, I came up with a few realizations.  Even though we had a great time, I made a decision that it will be our last con with robots or droids.  It's just too much work, expense and vacation days that could be spent in other areas.  We need to spend more time in the mountains and less time at conventions.

Another thing I decided is there will be no more new robot projects.  I plan to sell all my extra parts and robotics components and may even sell some of or possibly all my life size robots collection in the next couple years.  Still not sure about that decision though.

Instead of robots, I'll be turning my attention into more art related projects.  I've been learning a lot of metal working techniques and enjoying that immensely.  Plus it will be a good thing to carry over into retirement where I could even make a few dollars with it now and then.  But we'll see.

So I guess this is the official end of the Life size robots blog.  Thanks for following.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Celebration V was a blast

I've stayed away from the computer for the last week while we were away in Orlando, Fl attending Celebration V which is a massive 4 day Star Wars party.

The R2D2 builders club had a room where we displayed around 80 droids and got to hang out with other builders.  It was a good time meeting builders in the club from all around the world.  We all had a very good time and I learned a lot talking to the other builders.  Also had a good time with the 501st attending the "bash" at the Doubletree.  We were lucky to meet up with a couple members in our local garrisons to have a few drinks and talk. 

The highlights of the convention for us were the droid races and the droid parade in addition to wrangling R2D2  among all the convention attendees .... especially the kids.  If I had a nickle for every smile that R2 generated, I'd just about be able to retire.

My R2D2 performed flawlessly until the last day when I was unhooking my charging cable.  I made a mistake in designing that cable and made it where it could short out when disconnecting it from the charger.  Which is exactly what happened on Sunday morning before the droid parade.  The short started a small fire in R2 with a lot of smoke and melted wires and a melted switch.  Since the switch melted, I had to pull the hot wires out manually to stop the short.  But by this time the battery wires to the switch / charging unit were completely melted and fried.  These were thick wires too !  After picking the melted plastic out of the circuits, I borrowed some wire and bypased the switch to power on R2.  Fortunately all my main circuits were protected and all the important electrical components were intact.  I was able to run R2 for the rest of the day but with no on/off switch.  I had to manually disconnect from the battery to shut it off.

Another lesson learned.  I'm going to redesign the charging port to be a little safer.

Here's a few pictures and a link to the droid parade.  I'm the guy who has his hand in a brown leather bag controlling his droid.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V - Packed and ready to head out to Orlando

R2D2 and C3PO are fully operational, packed up and ready to head out to Celebration V.  

Here's a pretty good video of Celebration IV which was in LA 2 years ago.  This video starts out pretty slow but ends with a great chase scene and George Lucas.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Jumped the gun

I sure jumped the gun on the last blog entry I posted this morning.  I don't think I've ever posted twice in the same day but today was one of those days I considered finding some Jawas  to see what I could trade R2 for.  It was crazy.

As I was debugging the computer code to turn lights on and play sounds, the electronics panel hinge completely failed and the whole assembly needed to be replaced.   After that, I prepare to drive R2 closer to the work bench and the right motor doesn't work.  I tested the wiring to the right motor - ok, the switch that controls the motor - ok, Hook the motor up to 12v directly - ok (sigh of relief) and then diagnose the Vantec RDFR23 speed controller the best I can and it appears the right channel isn't sending a signal.  Plus when I power it up and shut down the left motor, that infamous hum didn't happen.  Just silence.  Found the problem.

Fortunately, I happened to have a spare VANTEC controller on the shelf and was able to configure and replace the other controller.  So R2 is back on his (2) feet again.    After that, the thumb drive that contains all the scripts and sounds got corrupted !  I had to dust off my DOS skills to CHKDSK the drive and cleanup the corrupted files.  Geez !
R2 has been running just about flawlessly the last couple years and has been to many events.  So the mechanical challenges of the last week have been unusual to say the least.  I'm glad they happened at home because trying to fix these problems next week at Celebration would have been awkward.   

Thank the maker !

Ready to party

I finished the front ankle/wheel assembly and added a coat of paint around 9:30 pm last night.  What a busy day that was.  At 4:30 AM I awoke to reassemble R2 and run tests to see how the new front wheel assembly worked and most importantly ... to see if the new design fit on the ankle and foot shell correctly.

After putting everything together, it started raining so the test drive ended up being in the garage.  Everything seemed to work perfectly.  Only negative event was the electronics door hinge broke.  It still kind of works but one of the sides broke off.  It's a plastic removable hinge which seemed like a good idea at the time but when I get around to replacing it, I'll use an old fashion metal one.

To fix the front foot I used a piece of 1" square tubing and cut one side off with my plasma cutter.  This gave me a nice square piece of strong steel.  The next thing I had to do was cut most of the steel away from my existing ankle/wheel assembly.  Because it wasn't a consistent size and I needed it to fit the square steel tube.  It took a lot of cutting and grinding but eventually I got everything to fit.  I used the MIG welder extensively to strengthen and lengthen the back edge of the assembly and also used it to add a strong glob of steel to the front of the assembly so there would be no play or pivot in the assembly.  Even a small amount of play will wreak havoc.

When putting it all back together, I made sure to use loctite so the bolts wouldn't loosen up with all the vibration.  That's a very important detail that I left out last time and allowed the bolts to loosen somewhat which gave it a bit of lateral movement.   Now it's nice and tight all the way around so we're good to go.

That gives me time to weatherize C3PO's packing crate and add some foam padding.

Just about ready for a road trip !

Cutting one side of square tube using a plasma cutter

Welding / formulating front bracket

Final result - most ugly weld marks won't show

R2 Ready to go

C3PO waiting in his moving crate

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Troublesome droid

After working through a million electronics challenges, I finally got all that straightened out. And then the trouble started.

I decided to experiment with driving him and test the drive system out one last time.  The new front foot I built failed !!!!!!!!!!!!!    Back to complete teardown.   And I'm not even sure I'll have time to fix it.  The stress of the droid on the foot was too much for the foot and I may have to put some ugly welds on the outside of the new ankle piece to strengthen it.  But worse than that there is a minor listing there which makes the droid pull to the left.  And that's not good at all.

I'm helping someone move later this afternoon so my build time is limited but if I have to I'm working til 2 in the morning to get this fixed.  Only a few days left until Celebration.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Electronics problem solved

The electronics problem that was dogging me recently has finally been resolved. It turns out that the Jedi controller and VMUSIC2 module does not play well with modern miniature (motorcycle) amplifiers. The amplifiers cause some type of feedback that fries the mp3 chip that's in the VMUSIC2 module. That's what plays the R2 sounds. I was told the VMUSIC2 module has 3 processors and the best way to tell if the mp3 processor is fried is to use a pair of headphones in the VMUSIC2. If the headphones can hear the sound then the VMUSIC2 module is ok still. If no sound then it's trashed.

I ended up buying 3 amplifiers and 3 VMUSIC2 modules before I got it to work. The successful amplifier was an ancient old school car amplifier (Alpine 3542 60 watts x2) that I heard one of the other guys on the R2 forum used successfully. It was a lucky EBAY find as the one I bought was the only one listed. The down side is the amplifier is quite large so it took a lot of thought and re-arranging inside R2 to get it situated.

While R2 was all torn up I decided to install a new aluminum claw arm in one of the front doors. This took a lot of thought because I had JAG breadpans inside the door and they technically aren't supposed work with with the arms. That is unless you cut a large notch out of the top of the breadpan and build something to hold the arm in place. My solution worked pretty well but will need to be redone when I automate the arm/claw to open the door, reach out and pinch pretty girls.

That's a project for after Celebration V.  Now I have to construct a crate for C3PO that can be lifted with my crane into my truck.  We scored tickets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp this afternoon so C3PO will have to wait until tonight for his crate. 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Borg Alcove is complete !

My good friend Brad finished his Borg Alcove today. Unbelievable prop. After watching this video that I made, my wife agreed it looked very cool.
And then looked at me and added "We don't have room for one".

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My droid sounds like a 1930 Ford Model 'A'

After an entire weekend of wiring and rewiring R2's electronics, I'm starting to realize that one of the components has a major problem. The vmusic2 sound module seems to be the weak link because instead of playing the R2 sounds, it sounds like an obnoxious noisy engine.

It's frustrating because there are only 17 days until Celebration V and this droid must be fully operational by then. To remove these new electronics and rewire the old back is my last resort. But it's beginning to look like that's going to be my only option unless I can figure out what I did wrong or find out the cause and then find a suitable replacement component.

Normally things like this don't rattle me but when you have a hard deadline it can drive you crazy. I tested the amplifier independently and it works just fine. My guess is the vmusic2 module is the bad guy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You get what you pay for

I don't know how many more times in life I'm going to have to learn this lesson but trying to get by on the cheap comes back to bite you more often than not. Again, with this JEDI Controller I lost an entire weekend of work due to problems from buying a cheap component. Normally I spend a little extra$ and try to get good quality over cheap but this was one of those impulsive EBAY purchases with very little thought behind it.

Because we needed our dining room table back to entertain friends coming over for dinner, I ended up moving the entire mess of wires and components back out to the garage. After the move, JEDI controller stopped working with an insistent error regarding the VMUSIC2 module. I rewired the controller completely double, triple and quadrupled checked all connections. I tried a different VMUSIC module, a different flash drive, a different receiver board, a different jedi controller board all to no avail. It was starting to drive me nuts (again).

So after good advice from Todd in Orlando, I disconnected the piece @@ @%#@%# cheap amplifier I bought off EBAY and instead hooked up a pair of headphones.

All of a sudden everything started working perfectly and the sound problems also went away. So once again cheap ended up being much more expensive in the long run.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Resistance is futile

Today was loads of fun. First we stopped by a good friend of ours house and took video of his almost completed life size Borg Alcove (from Star Trek). This prop is very cool and very detailed.

Later in the day we stopped by R2's #1 fan (Jeremy) and enjoyed hanging out with the 501st at Jeremy's birthday party. His family and friends are the best and we had a ball. What a great day !