Day 44 – “R2-D2, Meet Your New Droid Friend!”

imageHis name is Rusty (the droid, that is). Kneeling next to Rusty is Mr. Alex King, a fifth-grade science teacher at Sand Creek Intermediate School. It all started one day last winter, when Mr. King learned that he’d been awarded a Lilly Teacher Creativity Grant to build an Astromech droid, better known to Star Wars fans as ‘R2-D2’!

HSE21 Shorts caught up with Mr. King and Rusty today to find out exactly how Rusty came to be, and to learn how Rusty will extend learning for Mr. King’s students and the wider community.

HSE21 Shorts: How in the world did you know where to start with building Rusty? Are there ‘directions’ somewhere for things like this?

Mr. King: There is a builder’s club for Astromech droids (which is what R2-D2 is in the movies); you can find the club at www.astromech.netI had to buy parts from guys in the club that would do a “run” of a specific part, like the dome, and start organizing them, cutting pieces out, painting and assembling, all without a master plan.  They have blueprints and the like, but I generally used reference pictures form the movies or asked for advice from the Astromech forums.

HSE21 Shorts: When was Rusty completed?

Mr. King: Rusty is not complete yet, but the majority of the building was completed the week before school started this year.  I have still been working on him and have had a couple of build days with other central Indiana droid builders.  Rusty started driving the week of September 8th.  I am hoping to get the lights and servos placed in the dome in the next couple of months.

HSE21 Shorts: I assume that your goal was not just to build Rusty, but to build him for the benefit of kids somehow. Was the purpose to get kids interested in robotics…or what?

Mr. King: My initial goal was simply to build the droid and take him to conventions and such.  Then I met some folks from the 501st Legion, a national Star Wars costuming group.  They support loads of charities and are a non-for profit organization.  They are simply requested to show up and they do.  They were very excited to meet someone that was building an R2 unit.  I will take R2 to children’s hospitals and charity events in addition to comic and gaming conventions.

droidcon_15smallHSE21 Shorts: How have and will you continue to partner with Rusty in your teaching and in the community?

Mr. King: In addition to the above, I will be available for character appearances for schools and other organizations. I went to the Brownsburg YMCA for a health fair two weeks ago.  I am also starting a robotics club at SCI, for which Rusty will be our mascot.  I will also probably show up at different sporting, events since Rusty just happens to be red & white…the colors of Fishers High School!

If you’d like to read more about Mr. King’s project and the creation of Rusty, visit Mr. King’s R2M5 blog!