Building R2D2, BB8 and Wall-E with Mike Senna

To celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi we chat with Mike Senna who has built his very own R2D2, BB8 and Wall-E.  If you have ever wondered it would be like to have and build your very own personal droid...this interview is for you!

TOPICS

  • How Mike got into engineering (0:04:35)
  • Mike's current job developing fingerprinting technology for law enforcement. (0:06:27)
  • When Mike finds time to work on his droids. (0:07:53)
  • Where the first inspiration to build R2D2 came from. (0:12:30)
  • The moment R2 came to life. (0:16:16)
  • The experience of bringing R2D2 to charity events (0:17:44)
  • Mike's favorite memory from brining R2 to an event. (0:20:44)
  • The process for building Wall-E. (0:23:13)
  • The importance of the iterative development process. (0:26:54)
  • Differences between the R2 build and the Wall-E build. (0:28:22)
  • How to make and animate a robot. (0:29:41)
  • Creating Eve to go with Wall-E. (0:33:24)
  • First seeing BB8. (0:34:52)
  • Why 3D printing is best for prototyping and not final product. (0:37:03)
  • Why Mike's most practical BB8 doesn't roll. (0:40:05)
  • When Disney got in contact with Mike. (0:42:01)
  • Finding out what it was like to stand next to a movie star he created. (0:43:49)
  • How to get started building R2. (0:46:35)
  • What causes most people to stop building. (0:48:25)
  • Where to follow Mike. (0:49:53)

LINKS


TRANSCRIPT

Brandon: You went to Cal State.. is that right? For electrical engineering?

Mike: Yeh I want a Cal State Long Beach for the degree was for... it was actually called electrical electronics technology and it was for.. it was like a go between between an engineer and a technician.

Mike: So we would actually learn how to design the circuits but build it as well. And it was good for the aerospace industry. Unfortunately right when I graduated the aerospace interest industry just collapsed and you didn't find a job in the aerospace industry.

Brandon: Gotcha.

Brandon: What and what year was that when he graduated?

Mike: That was back in 82. When 82 82 is high school. 87 probably something.

Brandon: Okay got it. Yeah I did aerospace graduated several years after you did that to graduate 2008.

Brandon: And so that was like when all the stocks and everything was kind of crashing to.

How Mike got into engineering

Brandon: So what made you get into engineering and electrical. Were you always kind of the kid always tinkering and stuff when you're growing up?

Mike: I went on the engineering side the electrical side and I knew that I could find a job in there. My primary goal was to do something in technology that I can get a job right.

Mike: So yeah I take that as I was going through college. So the first two years I didn't know the major is everyone does that and that I found an interest in the electronic side so I went for that.

Brandon: Yeah what about electronics drew you to it.

Mike: What you can make is fascinating to see the results of everything that I didn't understand so I can understand the mechanics of gear you know I can see that and understand it very well. But if I looked at a circuit board and in comes something an outcome something else. It's like what's going on in the middle. And yeah if you can do hardware together and a little bit of software and create this thing you can really I felt push that kind of thing to its limits and create some fantastic things.

Brandon: Yeah. Were there any projects that you didn't college or maybe after that kind of stand out that you remember working on it?

Mike: I really enjoyed designing circuit boards and I think it was because the instructor came from the industry. He was actually working in the industry as he was teaching the night class. And only because it's the backbone of the entire thing. I mean you have to know how to do this in order to create your own stuff.

Brandon: That makes sense. And so then you mentioned before I forgot to hit the record button. So did you go straight to Morpho Track is that right.

Mike's current job developing fingerprinting technology for law enforcement.

Mike: This is currently. It's actually it's now turned to Edema where the company I work for gets about every four years. So it started as Motorola went to Morpho Track track and now it's Edema.

Brandon: That's cool.

Mike: So we do fingerprinting software for law enforcement like Police Departments U.S. Army FBI. The fascinating thing that I love about this job is when you're working on a contract you work for a year or two on one police department or a software and they'll come back with with stories for us he said they're so happy the big departments will say stuff like you know we have these cold cases with crime prints that we like to run after we get a new system and oftentimes I'll get 20 to 30 hits.

Mike: I mean hits meaning they can walk up to a door knock on the door and arrest somebody you know and that's so satisfying and then you know you're a part of that.

Brandon: Yeah, you've been with them since 2005. Is that right?

Mike: Yeah. Yeah I actually. How many years is twelve years. Yeah and that's a long time but a lot of the work is stressful at times. But I love the work.

When Mike finds time to work on his droids.

Brandon: It's always been crazy is so all of your droid building has been on the side so it as if you're just doing like at nights and weekends? Is that kind of a normal when we were working on it?

Mike: That's absolutely correct. The first one I did was the R2. So I started dialing in late 2000 to little bit before I started at this job of course. What happened was I was looking at Star Wars things and I was thinking gosh I want to use some of my skills to do something I wonder if there is a group that does or information about R2 and I stumbled on the R2 builders club and it was kind of in its infancy at the time.

Mike: So I immediately started working on this thing. Got to a point where I was helping design some. I would design it and think everybody else didn't care about my designs and who cares.... I'm just working. I didn't know anybody in a prop industry. So I found out that I liked to work that way better because it doesn't pollute my designs. Knowing somebody else's designs.

Mike: I thought people were working so hard on their droids because they would be posting and posting and I was like oh my gosh I got to keep this up I got on I got to keep up with these guys and it really turned out that nobody was actually working on anything.

Mike: So I spent a year, like weekends and every day after work. And I think I took maybe three weekends off or something during that time but it was interesting to see in the end when I said hey guys you know we're we're just about done here. Let's have a gathering at my house a local gathering.

Mike: So we got about maybe 12 people to come and it was of course in its infancy here and I thought people would come with completed R2's. There was only one that was almost complete mine which was 99 percent complete and the rest were heads and foot shells and things like that. It was kind of funny.

Mike: It's an internet thing and we weren't used to internet things back.. gatherings back then so I only knew people through their screen names. You know everybody in the house that came we didn't know who they were. So we put up... we were very paranoid because we're so conservative.... we took down our calendars. We put up a fake alarm system. Identity proofed our house maybe.

Mike: And of course we didn't have to all these guys were so fascinating. At the end of the night about you know after what is going on in 2:00 in the morning I'm laying in bed and I'm talking to my wife saying.

Mike: What just happened?

Mike: She said: I don't know what it was. It was weird.

Mike: And it was because we we thought we knew everybody there for their entire lives. Yeah we could stop and talk to somebody for 45 minutes at a time and just you never run out of things to talk about. So yeah it's been strange. From that 12 people we had these gatherings every year. Now we've got 140 people coming over with you know 30 to 40 droids and all rolling around in the backyard. It's it's really fun.

Brandon: That's so cool. So cool. It sounds like you had some of your like biometric scanners as folks were walking to double check their identities.

Mike: I wish I did. Maybe if I was working there longer, I probably would have run them through background checks.

Brandon: That kind of go that before you even started building R2D2 where the where did the idea of wanting to build? I know you mentioned you were a fan of Star Wars you wanted to get into it. But like that seem like a pretty big jump to go from being a fan to I want to build my own R2D2.

Brandon: Was there any like steps in between or any other like motivating factors for you?

Where the first inspiration to build R2D2 came from.

Mike: Okay so way back when. There is a story that a lot of the old timers in the 501st cosuming group. The 501st Legion, a great club. Well I found out when we were really little kids we went to see Star Wars.

Mike: So we are fascinated by it and what they had was there was Darth Vader and 2 storm troopers and it was announced that these guys would be at Toys R Us. Two different appearances at Toys R Us.

Mike: So I'm so happy about that. We were so excited, my cousins and I went to the local Toys R Us and they had this roped off area that went all the way along the back of the store and it was about three feet, you know a corridor they blocked off. And all it happened was the characters came out of the one door of the storeroom, they walked through that while and then they walked right out the door. On the other side of the store.

Mike: And they didn't stop. And we were fascinated and horrified at the same time but it sticks with you, and your thinking and I one day want to make a storm trooper costume.

Mike: So that stays in the back of your head for years and years and years and down and 2001 I finally was looking on the Internet. Thinking their must be tutorials or something out there that I can do. And that's when lo and behold I found the first stormtrooper kit. So I went ahead and ordered it.

Mike: And I'll tell you when it came in the mail it was in a box. I was so excited I called my wife and I said is that there is it there. She said yes. Here she said open it out. And so she opened it up and she said the face looks exactly like a stormtrooper. So of course when I'm coming home from work I'm trying my car praying to God please God if you're going to kill me today if I die today at least let me see if this storm trooper costume before you can.

Mike: I'm so happy.

Mike: So I get that join the 501st and never went to an event as a storm trooper at that time because I was thinking, Gosh their is like 20 soldiers and I'm feeling like it's not so special.

Mike: So I was thinking what else could I do. R2 is my favorite character. That's going to be crazy or something like that. So that's when I discovered the that builders club and almost the same exact same thing happened I had ordered the dome from club and my wife again opens it up and says it's bigger than she thought it was it's beautifully cut it's it looks awesome. And there I go on my way home praying God please don't kill me. Let me at least see the dome before I go. And low and behold was able to see the dome before I went...well I haven't gone yet.

Brandon: Going back to that first build was there moment when you were building... I guess even when you get painted are you had electronics with it where R2 came to life? Did you have one of those moments?

The moment R2 came to life.

Mike: Well see that's the thing people don't understand when you're in creative mode like that and you're also in the design mode so you're your vastly to concentrate on every single piece when you're trying to make every single piece look exactly like what you see in pictures. And as you do that you kind of lose your perspective of how the whole thing looks put together.

Mike: So what it had to do was after I completed it I was looking at it and I wasn't sure if it looked good or not because I've been staring at it for us for a year. So I actually covered it out and put it in with a blanket and put it in my dining room and left it there for three weeks and I didn't touch it. After the three weeks I went back and I pulled the covers off and then I looked at it and said oh my God this looks good!

Mike: I couldn't do that between I don't know it's just I guess it's like what they say about cooks when they could taste their own food. It's always better the next day.

Brandon: Yeah yeah a little bit of you can't see the forest because the trees That stuff going on to.

Brandon: That's that's neat. I know a big part of the 501st is the charity events that folks go to. So you were bringing art to those events is that right?

The experience of bringing R2D2 to charity events

Mike: Yeah we did good. I say the first year we did well over 100 events. And what happened was I started in the beginning brining them to events and I didn't understand what it looked like to other people. It was just something that I built. So I was a little bit apprehensive about bringing him out to the 501st because I thought oh my gosh these guys are so hyper Star Wars fans are just going to look at my thing and just go you know whatever this guy trying to build an R2 and you know I didn't know anything.

Mike: So I brought it and they kind of looked happy about it but I'm apprehensive about me too because he's never met before. So we were kind of both you know I didn't know whether or not I was welcome and of course I was... but you know we were all geeks were the extreme geeks just don't feel comfortable anywhere you know.

Mike: You know I kept asking, Hey do you want to this event? Do you want to at this event?

Mike: So finally one of the guys just came up to me and goes: Look Mike stop asking if you want you at this event because you've got the most accurate we've ever seen. And everybody loves it.

Brandon: And that was a time I was like, Oh OK now at least I know you know where it stands as far as the group goes.

Brandon: Then I felt responsible for going to every single event because you always see at least one kid. His eyes light up you know this spark behind the sign and you're like gosh you know a I just lit something for that guy or who was responsible for that and then I think Geez if I don't go to this next event.... Will not happen to this guy? Or the next kid?

Brandon: So I mean sometimes I was doing two to three events a weekend. But after that year and a half I think I just I was so burned out. I was always just stressed. Stressed to the point that that I hadn't been before. I had to pull back on some of these gigs because I just couldn't do them. It's all a discovery process. I guess it's a funny thing and it's a funny journey but it's an odd one.

Brandon: Yeah yeah. Is there any kids in particular through the years that kind of stand out with their reactions or maybe some of the things they're going through?

Mike's favorite memory from brining R2 to an event.

Mike: You know early on one of the first things we would call places if we saw Star Wars things going on. So there was a star symphony where the kids were invited to introduce them in symphony music. So the Pacific Symphony Orchestra would do this program every year. And we saw that they were going to play the Duel of the Fates.

Mike: So I contacted the symphony and said: Hey I've got an R2 would you like us to come and just sit in the lobby and give some environment to your guests.

Mike: And they said wow yeah dude, do you know anybody else that I could come? So that was my first organized event and I think I'd brought out like 30 characters or so. We occupied three levels of this symphony and the memory that came out was there was a family that brought their children to about one of the children was blind because of the music in a symphony is good for that sort of stuff. That sort of kid, and the kid also loved Star Wars.

Mike: So his mother came up and said oh this is my child can he touched the R2?

Mike: And I said Oh sure.

Mike: So he was touching the two inch and play a sound and he would go down and listen to where the sound was coming from. And I just thought that was fascinating. At the time would he be able to see how big or what shape is R2 for him in the film.

Mike: So I went up to him and I took his hand and I said you know move this stick right and left and put his other hand on the dome so that he can see that when he moved the stick the dome moved. So I kind of introduced him to how the transmitter and wireless communications worked with the R2. So that experience stuck with me for a long time.

Brandon: That's cool. So you build that in 2003, and so Wall-E though.. your first Wall-E, that was like after Wall-E came out with that. Does that start in 2010, Is that right?

The process for building Wall-E.

Mike: Yes I think so yeah. Yes somewhere in there. I know it took me a fresh start in 2009 and it took me two and a half years and I think that's the time line.

Mike: The thing with the Wall-E was there was nothing available that was accurate. And so there was a Wall-E builders club that started when the film first came out. I think the film came out around 2007 or so.

Mike: When it came out the club immediately started. They started building before the film even appeared in theaters. I kind of thought it was premature because of my philosophy. I was saying that they want to build something and build something really good. It's got to have some kind of longevity. I can't sit there and do something for instance like Johnny 5 everybody asks about and I love that robot also but you know it's not it's a film that can be remade by somebody else. And then the robot would change and then everybody every generation forward will recognize the new one but not the old one. So I didn't want that to happen to Wall-E, which I knew it wouldn't happen because it's a Disney film but I don't know how people were going to react to the film. So it really wasn't of interest to me. Plus in the beginning of any club there's always crazy politics and wacky stuff that goes on.

Mike: So you know despite the guys were saying, join join join.

Mike: And I was like No no no I can't I don't want to right now I'm too busy with the R2.

Mike: So that's why I joined later I reached a point where I was like well I'm satisfied with the R2 am fine with him and let's start another project.

Mike: So what Wall-E meant to me was to take all the skills that I learned about and accumulated with the prop shops and electronics and the controls that I've seen the things that I've discovered and I wanted to put it into a showcase that could be my resume of robot building.

Mike: So it needed to have the wow factor than I wanted. So without blueprints and accurate blueprints most of it was built through the looking and watching film and like all of the posters there is really so were some really accurate posters. There were some other materials that you can get that you can see what what kind of detail is on the Wall-E.

Mike: So all that stuff took like two and a half years to to build. Trial and error like crazy where things like the head motion, him looking up and down and side to side right. Thank God it's pretty basic. While it's not really basic. You've got to have that motion moving at the speed that you want. Plus the ability to control it well.

Mike: So I went through two designs that I totally scrapped because the electronics didn't work like I wanted them to. I wasn't getting the response I wanted to, the third design worked fine. But there was a lot of trial and error and a lot of things like that, that went on.

The importance of the iterative development process.

Mike: And I think that's one of the things that kids now are noticing are more impatient about since they have been exposed already to the R2 building area. Where they want to see it happening. They want to see it in media. They want to see in social media everything happening. My own philosophy isn't it because I've seen it so many times so many starting down this path. And they're spending a lot of money doing it developing and it ends up being a dead end.

Mike: So it's horrible for me to trash my stuff and start over. And why would I want to do that to somebody else. This is like yeh this is what I bought. And there like show me the wiring diagram. Here's a wiring diagram and here's a part number I bought.

Mike: You know these people are going to go out and buy all kinds of stuff you know in the end is like well it's not going to be using anymore. This is what I'm doing.

Mike: I don't know. You can't... development isn't it like that. You know in a high price thing.

Brandon: So comparing the R2 to the Wall-E build was it the fact there were no plans and it seems like it is more of an iterative approach from development with Wall-E? Where the other big differences between the two builds?

Differences between the R2 build and the Wall-E build.

Mike: Yeah it's it's just a huge amount of difference...the track drive. Michael McMaster a friend of mine we he was already in the Builders Club so I said to him, I'm going to start building it now do want to build as well?

Mike: Because I know I'm going to be concentrating on electronics on the body on the scaling and everything else. So he came on board and started. We decided he was going to work on a drive train while I was going to work on the rest of the things. And then we were kind of switched the information over to each other.

Mike: So we did develop a drive train going on what some of the guys were already discussing and the builders club. And so that's kind of how the development went. But it was very very difficult.

Brandon: I know. I think you've mentioned a few times. Just the animatronics especially with Wall-E. Maybe just because it's an animated Pixar character like feels like it's a lot more expressive than what you'd get with like an R2 or even like a BB8. Was that hard because you're almost having to do some acting with it too?

How to make and animate a robot

Mike: Oh absolutely. So my primary reasons of course was for this charity event so I noticed when I was going into hospitals to console his head but his eyeball couldn't really look at the child or the adults. And be expensive. So I think Wall-E was the perfect candidate for that so you have to know I have to know that the Wall-E has you moved. He's going to react, is going to shake like a regular robot that's alive. The cartoon character.

Mike: So that was a lot of the power of the head motion right. And then what I did it was I developed some custom electronics that would do a series of motions every eight seconds. So every seconds it would tilt the left and right side of his head maybe and then open the eyebrows and then possibly do a shoulder shrug.

Mike: So every eight seconds it was doing something and I didn't want to worry about those expressiveness. And he could look at anything and his head can start moving. People interpret is what they want it to be. It could be like inquisitive it can be guessing it could be anything but as long as those motions are there and it captivates people watching it and it had a natural motion. That's what I wanted to get done. So the animatronic circuit board did that and it did it very well. The second thing that worked very well is I spent like two days cutting springs to make sure the body was balanced.

Mike: So when his head moved to the right for instance the whole body kind of was shrunk down just because of the way to the head. So when he looks left and right his whole body moves kind of left and right. And then when he moves forward his body rocks back just a little bit when he stops suddenly his body will rock forward a little bit. And I call that free animatronics because you're not controlling it and it's kind of controlling it naturally. And it's like a human being when you look to the side your shoulders are moving too not just your head. All those things combined make a really convincing animatronic robot.

Mike: You're in a convention and you're driving it and some people immediately see you driving it and because you're walking behind and trying to clear a path or something and you'll stop and i'll start controlling it. Well the person next to me will look at me for maybe two seconds and then start watching while we do something to try to make it and interact with someone and then I'll see their face light up and laugh. And from then on they never looked at me again. Yeah that's how you can tell when you're animatronic is working when you want it to be.

Brandon: So then Eve.... Are there other Wall-E builds do they incorporate Eve like you have with yours?

Mike: No I have not seen an Eve yet.

Brandon: Yes. So what was the inspiration to have Eve with Wall-E.

Creating Eve to go with Wall-E.

Mike: Yeh. After a while I started thinking what more can I do what's my next step? And I had the thing with the Wall-E for quite a while before I decided yeah let's try that Eve. And it became just a whole different kind of build. I'm not building with metal and building with wood, I'm now building with aluminum it becomes Styrofoam and I have to learn how to cut styrofoam well and what materials can go on Styrofoam because you can paint styrofoam. You got to give it some kind of shell some hard evidence shell.

Mike: So it was a new learning process and quite involved. You know but it was interesting. Course I like stuff like that challenge myself to see if I can I can do it. And I it turned out really well. And unfortunately and fortunately BB8 came along with The Force Awakens and I put aside the Eve so she's not finished yet. Poor Eve I don't know when she'll be finished.

First seeing BB8.

Brandon: Yeh. Well I guess was it Celebration when they enter into the BB8. Is that right?

Mike: Yeh, the opening celebration here in Anaheim. Nobody believed BB8 was a real thing and it could actually roll and do what it did. You know. So we were sitting in the audience and bam BB8 rolls out and just just fascinating. A lot of people immediately tried to jump in on that one and say let's do this before the movie happens you know.

Brandon: Yeah.

Mike: I hadn't had the desire to do anything with BB8 until I saw that stage show.

Brandon: I mean as soon as he rolled out like were your gears already turning?

Mike: My gears were turning on how the heck is that happening?

Mike: What am I seeing. You know what is going on. And then I think later on it was it was maybe day or two later. All the people people coming up and saying he so are you going to build this. I'm like no I'm not, leave me alone.

Mike: Leave me alone.

Mike: My mind was spinning you know and so I think a couple days later and said OK I'm going to do this are going to make an attempt.

Brandon: Yeah. Yeah. And you work on the second version is that right? Did I you're painting a couple weeks ago?

Mike: We are building the panels, Tiny and Michael Erwin they immediately started on a collaboration when they saw the stage one and were able to get photos of the product that was displayed there. Tiny started 3D modeling they had already and they started. Well they started on the head first right.

Why 3D printing is best for prototyping and not final product.

Mike: So was doing my build of the body and trying to get mechanics done on my first version and when I saw Tiny's stuff I was like I have to give in you know because it was so beautiful. I would spend many many months developing something that's as beautiful as that thing was. I ended up using that head but whole time I was looking at the Builders Club and what I strongly believe about these 3D printers are there for prototyping and for something like a BB8 head or BB8 tiles you should mold these things. So they become a single piece.

Mike: The main part of the head is cut into three parts. So you take it and print it out and glued together and you paint it up. Then my next logical step is to take it to somebody to be molded and then you cast a nice solid head out of there. The builders club went towards 3D printing and I think they stayed in 3D printing. And what happens is once you have that piece glued together and it falls off once twice even at a height. Once it hits the floor it's just going to go to pieces. And that's one issue but the second issue is also that if you leave it in the car in Southern California with the sun hitting it basically melts the head.

Mike: Fast forwad to what I'm doing now I was able to send the panels from a club to another guy that I know a friend that did casting work to pull fiberglass pieces.

Brandon: OK.

Mike: So that's what I'm doing in right now and some of it. I have I worked on a project... let's say that after I got my first prototype it was contracted through official channels to do something...do something for someone.

Brandon: Yeah.

Mike: Yes that helped to me recoup some of the molding costs. And you know that's not available to everyone. So I can't really diss anyone for not doing the moulds because they are expensive.

Brandon: All right.

Why Mike's most practical BB8 doesn't roll.

Mike: And I'm I was lucky enough to be able to pass some of that costs along. So my second build will be my wiggler that I've always been using thus far because it's more practical. If I'm doing something for Disney...or just doing a photo op say and if you have a BB8 with a magnetic head somebody can just take their photo with it and walk away and kind of hit it with a bag or something and the hand will go flying.

Mike: So it's for the events where they meet and greets. I like to have the droid that has a physically attached head. I mean it looks like it's moving. It looks like it's it's rolling and it's fooled many many people but it actually doesn't roll but this second one will have hopefully what I believe will be some hyper action to it where it's going to really move well. We've got some ideas in my head that that will make it do such things.

Mike: Like my first static build, you know released to the club when it's when it's operational and working fine.

Brandon: I mean you may not be able to talk about it but I know you guys get sent out like it for itself around like whether it's Disney or there's stuff with Star Wars. But like when did you realize that actual Star Wars proper noticed what you guys were doing? And started actually contacting you guys for help on their own stuff?

When Disney got in contact with Mike.

Mike: It was back in 2005. So it is a year and a half after having my Droid. And what happened was we did all of this charity work. Then we went to do the last film of the second trilogy Episode 3 right.

Brandon: Yes.

Mike: It was a screening in Westwood that was in Los Angeles that was a charity screening but the stars were coming to that one. So there was like Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee. Guys like that were and other stars were coming into that showing. When we arrived there they wanted R2 on the red carpet so I left them there and that's where... Well I was operating them of course the mean look alive. But a lot of those photos from the red carpet made it to the AP wire and back to Lucasfilm and all and they liked what they saw on the screen. They liked how he appeared on photos.

Mike: So once they saw some of the things they might want to have an R2 on they gave us a call and we started doing little tiny things and gradually you know built up to better things as the trust was built.

Brandon: Yeah that's a that's that's crazy. I can't even imagine being a fan and then the was the flip relationship that's got to be so cool.

Finding out what it was like to stand next to a movie star he created.

Mike: Yeah and this is how dumb it was. I still didn't know the impact of R2 right and still didn't know what I was doing. That charity showing was a big deal in Westwood. The headquarters was offsite maybe two or three blocks away from the theater. So we checked in and then we were notified that it's almost going to be starting over there at the theater.

Mike: So R2 was on a cart and he was covered up. So I said Oh man you got to go out there.

Mike: So I start going out with my wife and we were running down the sidewalk and we got to the block where the theater was across the street. And we couldn't go on the sidewalk of course because on all three corners there was fan's and ropes and everything and I was like oh this is crazy.

Mike: So we get in the street running down the gutter side right. And we stopped at the light and all three corners were fans across the street...I was waiting for the light to turn to go to the theater.

Mike: And I was waiting waiting and somebody on the corner said: Hey is that R2 under there?

Mike: And I saw part of his little part of his foot was exposed and I said Yeah he's under here.

Mike: And he goes: Hey can you take a picture with it?

Mike: Sure why not...So I pull off the cover.

Mike: And I hear this just screaming and just everyone going crazy wild I'm looking around to see who just appeared.

Mike: I'm like...is it Mark Hamill...is it Harrison Ford? Who just arrived>

Mike: The light turned and we ran across the street with him uncovered and went into the theater. And then after I finally took a couple seconds after I got there I was like oh wait they were screaming because I did that.

Mike: I've since been more discreet. But. I did not realize what was happening in that moment.

Brandon: I know we are getting a bit long on time but I definitely wanted to ask you for that for those that maybe listening and they can't even imagine where to start on the projects to the scale that you built. If folks are kind of getting into it are there some common misconceptions/ are they're good just like hey this is kind of like the basics when we need to think it through these type projects?

How to get started building R2.

Mike: I started by just buying small electronic kits. You can just look up electronic kids on Google and you can find just anything that will help you in the beginning trained to solder.

Mike: And these kits will also explain to you indepth what the kit is doing and what each component is doing. So those basic kits can give you a good introduction into electronics. There's more advanced like robotic kits line follower's sound followers light followers that you can get and then you can build up to a mouse droid and then you can build up to an R2 and then you can progress your skills to you know building anything you want depending on how much you want push yourself. .

Brandon: When people get into the builds. OK. This is this is I think where I come from I think I saw how many members are in Astromech it now?

Mike: Oh my gosh thousands I think tens of thousands at least. But not that many active members of course.

Brandon: Yes. And then like that but then like the number of completed builds are way smaller than that right.

Mike: Yeah I would say so. There's Yeah.

Brandon: Is there common points where people kind of fall off. They get really gung ho when there's something they hit like I can't I can't make it.

What causes most people to stop building.

Mike: I think it's different for everybody but I think it's electronics for a lot of people.. drive trains and how to control these things. My philosophy for the transmitter on electronic side is always go for something professional.

Mike: I get often get guys telling me: Hey Mike I want your opinion. I saw this transmitter and receiver off of eBay and it's fifty dollars. And this is what it does.

Mike: And you know what I don't even look at the link. You just spent thousands of dollars on your robot do you or do you want to take on what you want to do it if you want to bring them to any kind of charity event and you end up on a stage you're going to dive off of that stage with what you're looking at buying. You know spend the money and put it into the electronics. Some listen some don't and you know what can I say. If they ask me my advice or give them my advice.

Brandon: Well I appreciate your time and chatting with me is a blast. It's so cool to see what you're doing and what your continuing to do. But if folks are wanting to follow along with the builds you've got going now. Are there any good places that you would send people to?

Where to follow Mike.

Mike: Probably mainly on Facebook I guess Facebook and Instagram. Mike Senna on Facebook. Also YouTube maybe sometimes I post YouTube videos. It's very rare but I think it's only because I like to do tutorials on there and if it's something it has to be something it's already designed that I feel comfortable for you know exposing.

Mike: So those three places and I don't give up. That's my advice to everybody. Like I said I failed many times on the head of Wall-E. But you know you have to permit yourself to fail. And then you know mark it off as an option it's like OK fail let's continue on and work it. So you just just don't give up. That's when you quit.

Brandon: Well I appreciate your time and chatting with me. It was it was a blast!

Mike: Alright man.

Brandon Cullum