Robotics

While many of us wish we lived in the world promised to us by the sci-fi movies and shows we grew up with, so far, here in the 21st century, we have a robot that sort of vacuums an uncluttered living space and runty humanoid toybots that make fart jokes. Hey, it’s a start.

But for those of us with vivid imaginations, and a few handily-available tech-savvy pals, we can at least build replicas of the bots we grew up with. In a group, you’ll feel slightly less ashamed as you find yourself carrying on conversations and imagine intergalactic adventures with your home-built mock-ups of R2D2 and the Dalek mutants from Dr. Who.

You obviously don’t need to be part of a club to build a sci-fi robot replica, but it’s more fun that way. And most every robot that you’d care to make: R2D2, Daleks, B9 from Lost in Space, Wall-E — they all have avid building clubs. Some of these clubs are virtual, online communities that share technical help, building tips, parts, and support, others are local and meet in person. As usual, for exploring what resources are available to you, an Internet search engine is your best friend. Here are some of the builder clubs that we’re aware of.

R2D2 Builder Clubs

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One of the more professional bot builder clubs out there is Astromech, a club where members build all of the Astromechs in the R-series, as seen in the Star Wars movies and in other Star Wars media. It’s all in good fun, but these geeks take their bot building very seriously. If you’ve ever seen any of these bots in person, they are alarmingly realistic and it’s hard not to relate to them like they’re the “real” thing. Astromech even puts out a slick downloadable PDF magazine, called R-Series, though they’ve only produced three issues in four years (but then, most of the information in them remains useful).


Astromech: The Official Website of the R2-D2 Builders Club

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While the folks at Astromech do get together for face to face gatherings, the club attracts an international membership. An example of a local R2D2 club is the Washington DC Metro Area R2D2 Builders Club. Like a lot of R2 and other bot building clubs, members also build other sci-fi bots, like the popular B9 from Lost in Space. And like most such clubs, they show off their bots at public, science and technology, and charity events. Turns out, robots make excellent public service ambassadors.

Washington DC Metro Area R2D2 Builders Club


B9 Builders Clubs

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The first sci-fi robot clubs I ever heard about were for building the wacky and wise-cracking B9 robot from Irwin Allen’s series Lost in Space. When I was a kid, I wanted to interact with the real B9 so bad, it hurt. I would’ve been just as happy to have one of the facsimiles these builders lovingly construct. The B9 Builders Club boasts hundreds of members worldwide. Like a lot of these clubs, many of the builders sell or barter parts or kits with other builders, and all of that negotiating is mediated through the club’s website.

BTW: Sci-fi robot geeks will want to check out the interview on the B9 Robot Builder’s Club site with Robert Kinoshita, designer of the B9 (and Robbie the Robot), who is now his mid 90s. BTW: He called the B9 “Blinky.”

B9 Robot Builder Club

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Robbie the Robot Builders Clubs

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Sadly, there actually are no Robbie the Robot building clubs, but there are Robbie builders. Many of the B9 clubs also build Robbies, as Robbie the Robot was also designed by Robert Kinoshita.

Dalek Builders Clubs

DalekCity is home to the UK-based Dalek Builders Guild. The site offers Dalek plans, building tips, build diaries from club members, a showcase of member’s robots, all sorts of other goodies. This is a great place to start if you decide you want to build one of these Kaled mutant exo-skeletons.

DalekCity

Project Dalek is another amazingly well-done site of information and resources related to Dalek Building. They even offer a free downloadable manual in PDF format that details everything you need to know to build The Time Lord’s arch nemesis.

Project Dalek

Wall-E Builders Clubs

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It seemed like within days of Pixar’s Wall-E premiering in theaters, Wall-E robot builds were starting to pop up on the Web. Like a lot of the bots covered here, it’s great character within the robot that makes people relate so strongly and want to bring these machines to life. Wall-E offered appealing character in spades.

Wallebuilders bill themselves as the original Wall-E Builders Club. It’s a Yahoo Group. They also maintain a YouTube Channel as well detailing various aspects of building Wall-E replica robots.

Wallebuilders

20 thoughts on “Building clubs for your favorite movie and TV robots

  1. Supprisingly, no. I wanted to make a vincent years ago, but made too many already. I made an R2, the mini astromech, a ‘naked’ astromech that you can see the complex inner workings, a ‘naked’ C-3PO, a B’Omar spider droid and a Lava Panning Droid. A Wall*e is currently on the building table. A buddy down in Bollingbrook Illinois has made ‘bots from Twikki, to golden 3PO to Gort. MST3K and Star Wars line his workshop also. That’s the problem with creating accurate replicas, you never want to stop… every new idea is a challenge.

  2. There is someone working on V.I.N.CENT on the Replica Prop Forum and it’s looking really good so far.

    Since WALL-E is the latest addition to the line up of robots he is getting very popular.

    We have had people make WALL-E out of everything from Cardboard to Fiberglass, and MDF (medium density fiberboard) to Concrete.

    Currently there is progress being made on a working track drive system and we hope to have WALL-E rolling soon.

    Feel free to stop by the WALL-E Builders Club on Yahoo and check out the photos area to see what we have been up to.

    Also, our files area has the most accurate set of dimensional drawings you will find on the internet.

    Scot Washburn
    Owner / Founder WALL-E Builders Club

  3. As the Public Relations representative for the WALL·E Builders Group, http://www.wall-ebuilders.com, and I believe that you overlooked our group, by indicating that the yahoo group was the only group build group in existence. In fact, OUR group has been in existence before October 2007 and, I believe, we were the first organized wall-e builders group.

    Other than that, I love the rest of the article. I am a HUGE fan of the R2 builders group and I am happy to report that the Maker Fair has chosen our group to participate in the Maker Fair on May 30-31st. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to let your readers know.

    Oh yes, and please feel free to check out our site at http://www.wall-ebuilders.com and our very extensive Flickr Site at http://www.flickr.com/wall-ebuilders (It has all of our robots, including Auto and M-O)

    –Trace Elmens
    Public Representative of the WALL·E Builders

    1. Hey Trace,

      Thanks for your post. I never said the Yahoo group was the only group and I said “Wallebuilders bill themselves as the original Wall-E Builders Club.” But I’ll let you guys take to the battlebox to duke it out over who was first. Nice to know of all the clubs active out there.

      1. Hi Garth,
        Thanks for the clarification. I guess I am just a bit sensitive, being our groups PR representative for such a long time, promoting our group from the beginning and I’m a huge fan of Make Magazine. So when I saw that you only mentioned the WALL-E yahoo page, I just didn’t think you gave our group enough credit (or at all). It’s not really an issue, but we just want to let everyone know that there are other building groups for WALL-E. And we don’t just build WALL-E robots, we’ve also built M-O, Eve, Auto, and (currently)VAQ-M.

        Anyway, I love the rest of your article as I love movie robots. Do you think you could make a sequel (I’ve seen builds from Johnny 5, a HAL 9000, and even Goddard from Jimmy Neutron as online builds)because that would be Awesome.

  4. Hi,
    Yeh don’t forget http://www.wall-ebuilders.com.
    I don’t know which one was first but both groups are very good.
    A lot of people like the yahoo group format rather than a website format. Each to ones own.

    Personaly I post on http://www.wall-ebuilders.com It’s more into the robotics side of building. Not just Wall-e too.
    All Wall-e’s friends and other robots.
    A few engineers on there and areas for adding all types of robots, mechanics, idea’s, software and electronics.

    I can’t wait to see how the updated version of Johnny 5 turns out in the upcoming sequel.

    Rod.

    1. Me too, the WALL-Ebuilders.com ROCKS!!! It’s got a ton more pictures and videos and stuff thats open to everyone and everyone can see them and stuff(even if you aren’t members). They’ve also got this mega cool photosite (flickr.com/wall-ebuilders) thats bots of Auto and M-O and a life scale Wall-E robot!!! Plus, I love how they work on other robots and not just WALL-E and focus more on the robotics part of him. WALL-EBuilders.com is the closest you’ll get to a real BnL Company, except they don’t sell robots :(

  5. Actually, I think that both of the WALL-E building group are superb and I would like to see them working, perhaps, together in the future. I love Scot Washburn’s youtube page and I also love what Trace Elmens did with our Flickr site, so I am really hoping that both groups can strike a relation with one another.

    1. Actually, now that you pointed that out Matthew, I whole heartedly agree. We really should strike up a relationship with the yahoo builder’s group. There’s no reason for competition, when we can work together.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn