The Force is strong with Red Deer-built R2-D2

By Josh Hall and Troy Gillard
March 9, 2017 - 3:24pm Updated: March 9, 2017 - 9:59pm

This is the droid you’re looking for.

Adults and youth alike flock to Kris Sturgess’ creation, a 1-to-1 scale replica of everyone’s favourite astromech droid from the Star Wars universe, R2-D2.

The Makerspace Technician at Red Deer College was hired in January to share his wisdom with students. Prior to that, he spent the last several years working on building his R2 unit and keeping it ready for the next charity event or comic show appearance.

“The initial three years was to gather the parts and build, fit and assemble him,” Sturgess explains. “He’s about 10 years in the making total. Still tinkering, still upgrading, new parts, painting, and new electronics every now and again, he’s constantly evolving.”



“I did all the painting, all the assembling, and electronics. All the parts are machined aluminum. As part of the R2D2 Builders Club, we have the specs for the parts, then we group buy, 100 of us will all buy a certain part from a machine shop, and that’s what takes the longest time is to gather those parts. Then we assemble from there.”

The R2D2 Builders Club is fairly exclusive, Sturgess says, considering the amount of money and time it takes to build one’s own R2D2. Sturgess says the club has an agreement with LucasFilm which states they cannot profit by selling completed droids or complete kits.

“The large number of people that build R2s will do charity work, so children’s hospitals, Special Olympics,” he says. “R2 is a big draw for kids, plus he fits in with the maker movement because he is a made product, so I’ll take him out to events.”

The club has an agreement with LucasFilm for homemade droids allowing them to be used in TV commercials, or at local movie premiere events.

Sturgess also built a scale replica of Han Solo frozen in carbonite from “The Empire Strikes Back,” and is working on a 3D-printed version of the popular BB-8 droid from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Sturgess was at last weekend’s Red Deer Pop Culture and Cosplay Extravaganza at Westerner Park, where large crowds gathered around his table just to look at, take a picture with or talk about R2-D2.

Though he’s never attended, Sturgess says the annual Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, Florida features an event specifically for R2 builders where upwards of 65 home-built droids are wheeled into one room.

“I’ve heard stories where they lock the doors and George Lucas would come walk through the room and check out everybody’s droids and he’s like ‘I wish I had these when we filmed the original movies’ because ours are built way better than the movie prop version” he says.

Sturgess notes his R2-D2 isn’t quite as hollow as the one Kenny Baker wobbled around in filming the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels.

“Right now he has full audio, full motion of the dome, has a camera in his eye and can facial track. I can also give him voice commands to play music, and to activate items as well. I just have to get the drive system going next, then I can just drive him by remote from my tablet and no one would know who’s controlling him,” says Sturgess.

You can meet R2-D2 and his creator Sturgess at the second annual Red Deer Mini Maker Faire at Red Deer College, April 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The mini maker faire is a great event. Like-minded individuals like me, that enjoy making stuff, whether it’s rope-making, lego electronics, robotics, 3D printing, can come out to the event, set up a table and show everybody what you’ve been building. It’s also open to all ages for free,” he says.

What it all comes down to for Sturgess, whose sons are named Ben and Luke, is love.

“It’s a passion of building, electronics, metalwork, and in the end I came out with a good product that I enjoy, everyone else enjoys. I love seeing kids come up to him at a show to give him a hug. The magic of R2, seeing that with the kids, is awesome.”


"Rogue One: A Stars Wars Story" is playing at Carnival Cinemas in Red Deer starting Friday, March 10. Visit their website for show times.

"Anything Goes" at Thurber starts Thursday the 16th

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