When the WALL-E Builders Club appeared at Maker Faire last year, I was an instant fan. Pixar is tops when it comes to creating rich, expressive animated characters, and this little robot is one of their most lovable. That’s why these guys — and they’re all guys — set out to re-create WALL-E in the real world, the same honor that’s so frequently lavished on R2-D2.
Club members Michael Senna and Michael McMaster are now fine-tuning their remote-controlled WALL-E for this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area (May 19 & 20), with the help of sponsors Autodesk and Progressive Automations. They recently posted this video update of their build, and it’s impressive. Unlike the R2 builders clubs with their well-established parts bazaar, these WALL-E builders are fabricating their robot from scratch, cutting the chassis from plywood, welding the frame for the triangular tank-tread drivetrain (fully operational!), bolting up a custom articulated neck, head, eyepieces, and even WALL-E’s expressive little eyebrows. These are not parts you pick up at your local Buy n Large.
Senna says the club intends to have two WALL-Es zipping around under their own power at this year’sFaire, plus a third “naked” WALL-E displaying the inner workings.
Will the treads retract like in the movie, disappearing into WALL-E’s innards? “No,” Senna explains, “the cartoon cheats this. The treads shrink in width. It would be quite impossible in the real world, given the limited space, weight, and mechanics involved.”
That pretty well sums up the challenge of re-creating a robot that was never created in the real world in the first place. See you guys at Maker Faire in May.