By: Anxel Pineiro
If you’re like me, as a kid you fantasized that your toy soldiers, star fighters and their mechanical gear, actually moved around on their own, under your control, & they fought heated make-believe battles on your play-room floor.
You don’t have to look any further. Dave Stein has furnished the world with the means by which a static children’s toy can be brought to life. A fun little project for both young & old, & a great learning experience for the whole family, especially if you’re technically inclined and are up for a little challenge.
The At-At Project
A new Star Wars movie has hit the movie theaters. If you remember the walkers from some of the battle scenes in the Hollywood franchise’s original 3 episodes, you’ll be familiar with the idea behind the At-At Walker, even though you may long have forgotten this Kenner-manufactured children’s toy.
The toy, built in 1981, is readily available on eBay, & together with an Arduino Uno microcontroller, an Xbox-360 controller, some servo motors & a few additional cheap parts, it is the basis for Dave Stein’s At-At project, that lets the user remotely control an At-At Walker that actually walks autonomously.
At the heart of the project is Dave’s code for the Arduino & the Xbox controllers as well as some additional freely available software. A parts list is also available in his project page where you’ll also find links to a number of entertaining videos of the walker in action.
Future Project Improvements
The project page promises an upcoming tutorial & easy to follow instructions on how to build a functioning walker, & mentions a number of interesting planned future upgrades such as wireless control, a head-mounted camera, controls for the head & side-mounted cannons and improvements to the movement of the head.
The Man Behind the Project
Dave Stein is a software engineer, tinkerer & family man. He loves sports & technology (he mentions being an Arduino aficionado), & he likes to involve his family in hobby projects. Apart from its clear nostalgia value, Dave says that this project is useful for honing basic electronics skills like welding & breadboarding, & the repurposing of old technology, like the Xbox 360 controller & of the toy itself. All of the components are easily available & pretty cheap.
His enthusiasm comes across in the project page, leaving no doubt that he is greatly enjoying himself in this exciting pursuit, & hoping that others will follow suit & contribute to the project as well.
Image Credit: Dave Stein