'Central Texas Droids' group building working R2-D2's

Jamie McShan with Central Texas Droids remembers back to 1977 when he developed a lifelong admiration for the Skywalker's spunky droid, R2-D2

"When I saw R2-D2 on screen, I knew someday I had to have my own," McShan said.

Now he's built his own. 
   
"Central Texas Droids" is made up of local Star Wars fans like Jose Medina, Jason Davis and Tim Freteluco who work in industries like web development and IT.  The group is part of a worldwide network of R2-D2 builders who share blueprints and building techniques.

"We will go in together and order parts from a machine shop if we need to.  A lot of it is outsourced to machine shops or custom built in people's garages.  A lot of it is made out of wood or fiberglass or metal," McShan said.

McShan says it took him about 2 years to get his R2 up and running. 
   
He's added some gadgets to him since then.
   
So how do they work?

"We basically took the motors and the wheels out of the kids scooters.  We made sure the kids were off of them first.  That's what we used for the drive system.," McShan said.  "Remote control, allows us to drive him around, turn his dome, make all the different sounds."
   
And those sounds are straight from a galaxy far far away.

"Lucasfilm has been very helpful with us.  They have provided us with sounds, they've provided us with measurements," he said.

Not all R2's look alike.  Tim Freteluco built a "steampunk" R2-D2 out of copper and bamboo flooring!

If you've seen "The Force Awakens" you'll know BB-8 is a new fan favorite. 
   
He's a little bit of a technical marvel, but McShan is working on building him too.

"It's a very tricky thing.  Very expensive magnets.  So it's going to be fun," McShan said.

Central Texas Droids was set up at the STEAM Festival on Saturday in East Austin -- that's science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
   
McShan says he enjoys seeing kids recognize R2-D2 from the movies, smile...and then he gets to explain how he works.

"It's just great.  You can see them thinking in their heads 'I can do this, I can do that.  It's really inspiring," he said.
 

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