One of the first things on everybody’s minds when they see BB-8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens is “how the heck did they do that?” (Admittedly, the very first thing is “awwww, how cute!!”) Designed and built by Sphero, the same company that makes the Bluetooth enabled remote controlled rolling ball toy by the same name, BB-8 is a marvel of design and technology. Once the basic technique in BB-8’s construction was revealed, however, it was just a matter of time before enterprising fans figured out how to make their own. Angelo Casimiro of Metro Manila in the Philipine Islands is a physics student, and only 17 years old, yet he figured out the entire process and proved his understanding of it by building not one, but two complete versions of the popular droid.
He carefully chronicled the development of his creation on Instructables.com. Everything is there, exact hardware specifications, Arduino code, where to get the parts, and even a lively comments section where you can talk to Angelo directly and ask him technical questions about his build.
Surprisingly, BB-8 is made almost entirely out of household materials. It does have an Arduino-driven car that rides around inside the lower sphere, using it like a giant hamster ball, and there are a few special parts in there to go with it, particularly the motors and motor control Arduino shield. The head is made from styrofoam, though, and the body is fabric reinforced papier-mâché. The head is kept in place using powerful neodymium magnets, and yes, it can be independently controlled.
One of the overlooked problems he encountered was how to charge the batteries for BB-8 once the sphere was sealed, and he promises that the technique for addressing this will be revealed in a subsequent post on his Version 2.0.
All in all, this is an astonishing build. Best of all, the budget is something most of us could handle, especially compared to the average R2D2 build which can easily crest a couple thousand dollars. Watch the video and be amazed as Angelo assembles it all, piece by piece, showing you where each piece goes.
For more cool stuff Angelo has built, visit his YouTube channel, TechBuilder.