By Christine Bryant
There are millions of “Star Wars” fans worldwide, but not many can say they know R2-D2 personally.
Reynoldsburg resident Doug Bickert can.
As a member of the R2-D2 Builders Club, Bickert created his own replica R2-D2 robot.
Don’t be fooled – this isn’t just any craft project. Bickert’s droid is registered with Lucasfilm, features automation with a camera system, weighs nearly 200 pounds, and is constructed with high-end aluminum and steel.
A project five years in the making, Bickert’s R2-D2 was unveiled recently at a handful of Reynoldsburg schools, entertaining adults and students alike. He also attended this year’s Comic Con in Columbus.
As a member of the R2-D2 Builders Club, Bickert is part of a community of “Star Wars” fans who build their own replica robots. Sanctioned by Disney and Lucasfilm, the club has had access to movie set droids – something unimaginable to most “Star Wars” fans.
“We have access to the original droids, so we have the specs all the way down to the millimeter,” he said. “We’ve been to Lucas archives, and we’ve mapped these things up, down and sideways.”
Like most members of the club, Bickert says this project, which took five years to complete, began with his childhood imagination.
“I had a very vivid dream when I was in the second grade,” he said. “When I was growing up, it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and there weren’t a lot of anti-bullying laws around schools. I was picked on because my parents were both teachers. My dad was a principal. I had this dream that R2-D2 followed me to school. I was obsessed with ‘Star Wars’ because I was 10 or so years old, and I never forgot that.”
In his early 40s, he had an epiphany.
“I thought, I’ve been working hard. I could either get a motorcycle or build a droid,” he said.
But as a professional in the finance industry, his background didn’t exactly set him up for instant success in constructing a droid made with the highest caliber of materials and one that was programmable, able to hold a conversation with a human on its own.
That’s when he spent nearly three years doing research, and another two building. Through the process, he also created a drive system that could be used to move any type of object, including droids.
Bickert relied on other members of the club to help him with the rest of the parts.
“Everyone has a specialized role,” he said. “There’s no assembly line. Everyone who does this, it’s a pure passion.”
To get the blessing of Disney and Lucasfilm to make the androids, members of the R2-D2 Builders Club cannot profit from their creations because they do not own the licensing, Bickert said. However, members can use the robots in philanthropic ways, such as getting kids interested in STEM by interacting with them at schools.
So far this school year, Bickert has visited Waggoner Road Middle School and Junior High, Slate Ridge Elementary and Herbert Mills Elementary. He is also beginning to hear from school districts statewide who are interested in sharing his creation with their students.
“We’re going to do some events around the state, and am going to get him to the Air Force base in Fairborn for one of its STEM weekends,” Bickert said. “Next month, I’m also going to see a physician about getting him to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.”
By seeing R2-D2 in person rather than exclusively on the big screen, kids can better visualize their dreams coming true, he said.
“The magic of it is that R2-D2 is the hero of the movie,” Bickert said. “It’s something I think where kids always want to be the hero. Here’s proof that if you can dream it, you can do it.”