DroidBuilders UK

Uniting all droid builders.

Mark Leigh

By: Rob Howdle

Droid (s): R2-KJ, R5-KJ, R4-KJ, BB8, MSE-6, 39.1% Scale A-LT droid

How long have you been apart of a Droid Building Community?

I started researching my first droid early 2015 he was completed November 2016.

What are your current build?

My first build was a full aluminium R2-D2 with Steel feet running the Shadow Marcduino set up.
During my research Oliver Steeples said to keep things simple for a first build but it was advice I didn’t listen to and I have since gone back to basics for all my later droids. It’s great having a droid that all the panels open etc but it also means there’s more things to fail or need servicing.

I started a styrene build with my local Schools STEM club and we quickly realised we would need help with cutting the parts out so Frank Pirz agreed we could use his files and I arranged a deal with a CNC company – the STEM club droid still has a long way to go however one benefit has been the club now has a continuous run for the styrene kits. It was through this venture my latest droid came to be using a 3D Printed R4 Dome.

What made you want to build a droid in the first place?

I’ve always been a massive Star Wars fan. I can’t recall how I found Astromech.net but I spent weeks reading build logs , tutorials and eventually started putting my name down for the various club runs.

What followed was 18months of late nights in my newly cleared out garage working on my R2. It was only recently my Wife pointed out that building R2 had probably helped me through a very difficult time as I had at the time recently lost both parents to cancer.

What future plans do you have for your droid? Constantly upgrading? Show piece? Events droid?

For my R2 with him now nearing 4 years old the real world weathering from attending events means keeping him rolling is quite a task.
For some of our events we have numerous R2-D2s so I added an R5 Head to my build and then built R4 who should be cleared for events soon.

Do you have plans to build more droids? If so which one (s)?

Currently have the parts for my next droid ( and enough for probably a few more . Next Droid will be an R7 droid .
Then who knows .. D-O, Chopper ?

What are some of the challenges you have faced during your build?

The biggest challenges are also the things I’ve found the most enjoyable . I entered this hobby with zero skills other than some very basic model making and building PC’s. So every stage has been about research planning and then putting what I’ve learnt into practice . The information on the forums , the knowledge of those that have already overcome the challenges of building droids and the innovation from the clubs members allowed me to build my droid.

Do you have a ‘proudest moment’? If so what would that be?

This is without a doubt the Charity events .
I volunteered to help admin the clubs Events because we get to attend some fantastic events while extremely emotional you get to see the difference made to a families day .

The nurses at Manchester Children’s Hospital summed it up when they pointed out to me that many of the children have been on hospital for months at a time . When an R2 or Costume group visit it gives them something to talk about for the days ahead .

I think the most memorable moment was at Chester Zoo when a little boy who rarely left his wheelchair on seeing R2 climbed out and practically ran up and embraced R2 .

His parents told me they struggled to get him to walk let alone attempt to run. Certainly got something stuck in my eye when that happened.
If you have a suggestion for a Charity event you would like
Us to support the email address is events@astromech.info or contact me to discuss.

Not sure if it qualifies as a proudest moment but one of the most stressful things I have done are weddings especially for Sam and Hannah Prentice’s wedding.

I was right at the back of the Castles hall up on a balcony . R2 was at the limit of his range to the controller and he had to perform on cue …. I had done a dummy run , knew the commands to send and the timings required. Waiting for R2 to “scream” when the registrar asked if anyone had any objections felt like an hour .
Thankfully all went well and it’s now a fond memory of my first wedding with R2.

Are there any parts of the build process that have surprised you with how easy/ hard you found them?

The cost of building droids has put many people off when I found the R2 Builders club I had recently come into some money looking back now a significant amount of the money for the build was shipping and import tax.
My Brothers a welder by trade ( He was put to work making the Droid course and did a cracking job ) and through the development of the styrene kits we have been able to make Droid parts available to the U.K. and EU droid building community.
It’s great to see people able to realise a dream to own an astromech.

What is the most important piece of advise you would give to any new builder?

As I’m pretty much sure every builder who has contributed to these interviews has said read the build
Logs and the forums , ask questions , come to events . It really does save you a lot of time and money and Droid builders love to talk about their builds.
I personally enjoy seeing someone I’ve helped complete the stages of building their Droids.