Building a Homebrew BB-8

James Broton’s YouTube channel is one of the many reasons why I imagine I could get along just fine without cable TV. He’s a robot builder whose chief fascination (among many) is making replicas of movie bots and armor.

One of his current projects is a working BB-8 from the upcoming “Star Wars” movie. He has no idea how the working prop works or how its designers manage to steer a spinning ball while keeping a dome balanced on top of it, so he’s trying a couple of ideas.

His first design was a hollow ball and a robot on top with an Arduino and motorized wheels inside it that both kept itself balanced and drove the ball in any direction. Its movement was too wobbly, so he’s moved on to a much more complicated idea in which the ball itself is driven from the inside by a robot that acts like a hamster in a hamster wheel.

He documents and explains as he goes, designing and 3D-printing damn-near everything from scratch. It’s amazing stuff and inspires me to make things. It’s also just plain entertaining, in the same way that watching Norm Abram build furniture on “The New Yankee Workstop” was entertaining.

(And if you don’t think that watching someone wire up servos or cut dovetails is entertaining…we can still be friends but I’ll praise myself for being so willing to accept your weird alternative lifestyle.)