Saturday, August 10, 2019

Started Cutting New Drivetrain Bodies at Mike's

Today I went over to Mike Senna's house to work on cutting new drivetrain bodies for droid #1. I was joined by Michael McMaster, William Miyamoto and Chris Romines.

This is motivated by a recurring problem I have with the drivetrain axel milling out an oval shape in the flange that it rotates within. I described this problem here, but it has happened a few times now. After discussing this with Mike and Michael, we decided my flanges should be replaced with bearings.

While I could attempt to retrofit the existing drivetrain bodies to accommodate bearings, on Michael's advice I decided to to go ahead and buil new drivetrain bodies. Michael has the tools to cut the holes for the bearings (and the bearings themselves), and he was going to be at Mike's house anyway, so we made a build day out of it.

The reason Michael and Mike were together today, is because they were invited to be guests at the R2UK gathering in England, via a video chat. They answered questions and chatted with our U.K. colleagues, and at one point William, Chris and I joined in the merriment.

Afterward, Chris showed us his (repainted) smart phone-operated Dagostini R2 unit, which arrived in the mail one part at a time over the course of two years. It was pretty impressive, it looked good and functioned well.

We grabbed some lunch and then it was time to get down to business. I brought my existing drivetrains to use as a template, along with 26" of raw aluminum tubing for the new drivetrain bodies.

These are the new bearings that will be going in. I need eight of these per droid (four per drivetrain). These are 1 1/8" outer diameter, and 1/2" inner diameter.

I measured and marked where to drill the holes.

Michael and I took turns drilling the initial holes with a 1 1/16" hole saw, just slightly smaller than the diameter of the bearing.

Then, Michael used his reaming tool to widen the diameter to 1 1/8".

This tool works somewhat like a tap, where you manually twist it from the top. But rather than cut threads like a tap would, this has blades that shave off material from the side walls. You can adjust the width of the hole somewhat, using some nuts that are part of the reamer. The reamer tapers at the top and bottom, and bulges in the middle, which is where the maximum diameter resides.

Once that was done, it was time to cut corners. The top left and right corners of the drivetrain bodies need to be chopped, in order to accommodate the wheels, as seen in the picture of the existing drivetrain above. Mike and I took turns doing that. (One of us had the sense to wear eye and ear protection.)

Lots and lots of corners later, and we were done for the day.

We cut three droids' worth, one for me and two for Mike. We both have two droids, but my droid #2 hardly ever leaves the house, so I'm going to hold off on this modification for droid #2 for the moment.

There is still a decent amount of work left to do, including cutting most of the bottom edge off for the wheels, drilling holes for the motor mount bracket and the channel that rests on top, and building new chain (chain length is highly dependent on exact location of the gears, which is a function of the new holes we cut). Hopefully that won't take forever.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Hillsides Visit 2019

Today, R2 returned to Hillsides Children's Group Home, where he participated with dozens of members of various Star Wars clubs, to bring happiness to kids who have had a tough childhood. Per policy with these things, no pictures with kids were allowed.

As he's done each year, R2 hid under an outdoor stairway, as the characters changed into costume and prepared for their grand entrance.

Quite a large group assembled behind the building where the characters had changed, in order to make their surprise appearance.

Around 1:00pm, the music started, and the characters filed in the room where the kids had just finished watching a Lego Star Wars video.

The kids got to meet the characters, and most of the characters signed their autograph books. The kids also got trading cards.

After we were done in the room, many of us stuck around to take advantage of the air conditioning, while the kids went outside to see a choreographed presentation by the Saber Guild.

Look sir, droids! Sean had a small prop like the one seen when the stormtroopers are searching for the droids in the desert.

And finally, we wrapped with group photo.

It's a great event for a great cause, and I hope R2 and I are part of it again next year.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Comicon 2019

Today R2 and I joined fellow droid builders Mike Senna, Michael McMaster, William Miyamoto, Thomas Roesoeli and Chris Romines for our panel at San Diego Comicon.

I'd actually been in San Diego attending Comicon since Friday, but since R2 didn't go to the con until today, I didn't have any R2 activities to blog about.

Thomas always does an outstanding job of arranging the transportation, and this year was no exception. The U-Haul pulled up to our hotel at 7:45am, right on time. Our panel was scheduled from 10:00am-11:00am, so we allowed ourselves plenty of time to load the truck and commute to the convention center.

Mike Senna came up with an effective way to bolt our droids onto our wooden carts, and then tightly secure the carts to the truck wall with ratchet straps. Still, it's always a little nerve-racking when you shut the truck door behind you.

Thomas also arranged for a van to drive us to the convention center. It's about a 15 minute trip.

We unloaded at the loading dock, and wheeled the droids in through the back corridors, until we reached our Room 11 destination. Since we're the first panel of the day, we don't have to wait for a prior panel to let out before setting up.

Since we were still a bit early, I went downstairs to check out the convention floor for a few minutes. Open for 5 minutes, and it's already pretty packed.

After that, I headed back up to Room 11, and the line that was waiting outside was allowed in.

At 10:00am, it was showtime!

As the moderator, I had our panelists introduce themselves one-by-one, and then we transitioned to the various topics of our panel, such as club membership, build tools and techniques, electronics, and frequently asked questions (e.g. build time, droid weight, etc.), among others.

The panel was reasonably well attended.

Toward the end, we showed off our gadgets. Using an Apple TV as our connection to the projector, Amy Senna was able to take control of the display with her iPhone, and do close-ups for the people in the audience that would otherwise have trouble seeing the demonstrations from a distance.

We ended with questions from the audience, followed by pictures (and more questions) in the adjacent hallway, and then it was a wrap!

We reversed the process and took the droids back into the loading dock and onto the U-Haul.

On the 80 mile drive back home, I think a car in front of me was calling me out.

I really enjoyed our panel and the whole convention experience this year, hopefully we'll get to do it again next year.

Tina Bosse streamed the panel on Facebook, so if you're interested, hopefully this link will work:

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Star Wars Night at Dodger Stadium - 2019

Today R2 participated in Star Wars Night at Dodger Stadium, along with many other characters from the Star Wars costuming clubs.

As I had mentioned in today's earlier CHOC post, droid #1 was having some drivetrain issues, so droid #2 was called into service for this one, and he performed admirably. Nice to see a clean droid again!

I arrived and unloaded, and stationed R2 outside the changing room, where early-arriving fans took pictures.

We were split up into four groups of diverse characters. My group was to be stationed in the right field plaza to greet arriving fans, and at 6:00pm we were to be taken down onto the field.

At 4:45pm we headed out and waited for the gates to open.

And once they did open, a line instantly formed for pictures.

We cut the line off a little before 6:00pm so that we could relocate down onto the field. While the other characters can take the stairs, R2 must take the elevator. We made a quick stop by the World Series trophies on our way.

And when there's not an elevator, the chair lift will have to do.

Because we end up slightly below field level, I take R2 on the wheelchair elevator to get up to the field. This is my view as the roof-less elevator approaches field level.

Tonight was Hyun-Jin Ryu bobblehead night, and his wife Bae Ji Hyun was to throw out the first pitch, so lots of South Korean media were there.

In the meantime, we greeted fans that were invited onto the field before the game, and posed for media photos.

Bae Ji visited with us and got some photos.

And then she went to warm up her arm with her husband, who was going to be her catcher for the first pitch.

Next, the characters helped out with the Star Wars trivia contest that was shown on the scoreboard. The screens look absolutely gorgeous in person, but the refresh rate doesn't work well with cell phone cameras.

Once we were done with the trivia contest, we retreated back to the warning track, where Hyun-Jin Ryu and his wife had some fun interacting with R2. Hyun-Jin tried covering up R2's eye to see if he could still see.

Bae Ji threw the first pitch to Hyun-Jin, as the characters looked on.

And with that, it was time to retreat around the on-deck circle and back to the changing room.

We didn't get far though, as Bae Ji was doing more interviews with the South Korean media, so we waited.

We finally made it back to the changing room, where I stowed R2 for the game, while I went to go find a Coke and pretzel.

$7.00 for a Coke?!? I'll just drink the water that I saved from the changing room, but I will have that $5.00 pretzel.

The Dodgers provided us seats, so I watched the game from our vantage point on the reserve level.

The Dodgers were down 4-3 with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, when they received five consecutive walks!! They won 5-4 in literally walk-off fashion!

I headed back to the changing room to fetch R2, although I wasn't going anywhere for about an hour, as I needed to let the crowd thin out before even thinking about taking him to the parking lot, otherwise I'd be mobbed. In the meantime, the ball girls (in uniform) stopped by for a picture with R2, as did several outbound fans.

R2's record is an outstanding 9-2 with the Dodgers. As always, I am very grateful for the opportunity to combine my Star Wars fandom with my Dodgers fandom, and I hope to be back next year as well. The full photoset is here.