- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

OOLITIC, Ind. (AP) - “Man! Where did you buy that thing?”

It’s probably the most common question Scott, Denise, Sydney and Daphney Sproles hear when the Oolitic family are out and about with their 300-pound, 42-inch-tall, life-size R2-D2 droid.

“To make a long story short, I was transitioning from one hobby to another when we were watching ‘Star Wars,’ and I looked at the girls and said, ‘How cool would it be to have an R2-D2,’” Scott Sproles said.

Sydney added, “I told him to Google it.”

“The next day at work, I did,” Scott said.

A lifelong fan of “Star Wars,” Scott Sproles found an R2-D2 Builders Club at www.astromech.net. He joined, spent months reading the forum on how to build a droid, a fictional robot with some degree of artificial intelligence. Now, eight years later, he has his baby - one that attracts enormous attention wherever he goes.

“You can’t buy one,” he explained. “You can join our club and build one. And we can help you build one. If I get tired of him, I can only sell it through our club to another member.”

It took Scott, Sydney and Daphney eight years to build R2-D2.

“We’re a busy family. He’s a busy Daddy, and we’re all involved in many things,” Denise Sproles said. “Plus, you have to build up the money to buy the parts or have them made. It’s an expensive hobby.”

In “Star Wars” fandom, there are four basic communities: R2-D2 Builders Club, 501st (the bad guys), Rebel Legends (the good guys) and the Mandalorian Mercs. All four are nonprofit entities that attract Star Wars fans who want to use their hobby to help others.

“The 501st, for example, uses the slogan ‘Bad guys doing good,’” Scott Sproles said. “We all work together to do good.”

For the Sproles family, it means taking R2-D2 out to charitable events, often collecting donations for the cause. For example, this year, they brought him to Safe Night in June and the Lawrence County Cancer Patient Services car show Sept. 9.

“He steals the show wherever he goes,” Scott said.

The Sproles’ R2-D2 is made almost entirely out of aluminum, with steel feet. The droids can be made out of almost any material. In fact, some builders are experimenting with 3-D print products.

“If I hit something, I’m not tearing him up, I’m tearing something else up,” Scott said.

The droid is charged with a deep-cycle car battery, which contributes to his heaviness, and his feet are fed with scooter motors, which make him move. He’s controlled with a PlayStation 2 controller, and Daphney takes care of the Bluetooth technology that allows R2-D2 to beep, sing, mimic Princess Leia and even make a smooching sound when he’s kissed.

“Everything you see is a separate part,” Scott Sproles said.

“He’ll always be a work in progress,” Denise Sproles said of their R2-D2. That’s because technology is always changing.

“As things wear out or get broke, we’ll replace them with upgraded pieces, but we won’t change him out and upgrade him just to do it, because there’s no way we’d ever keep up with technology,” Scott added.

Scott doesn’t have a robotics background. In fact, he still has a flip phone. He uses those facts, however, to encourage others in building their own droids.

“If you can hold a screwdriver, if you can hold a wrench, then you can have an R2-D2, because our club is so good to help you that anyone can do it,” Scott said. “You can build this; just don’t be afraid to.”

There are R2-D2 droids in Indianapolis, Evansville and in Louisville, Kentucky, but Scott says he’s “pretty much it” for the in-between area. Because both daughters enjoy “Star Wars” cosplay, the Sproleses spend most of their time interacting with the science fiction movie’s fan base in the Louisville area.

So why did the family pick R2-D2?

“Why not,” Scott replied. “He’s the one that always stands out. I wanted the R2-D2 because it’s R2-D2. I wanted him to be my first.”

R2-D2, for the Sproles family, offers unique bonding time over their love of the George Lucas enterprise. Together, they visit “Star Wars” conventions and attend charitable events relating to their mutual love of the epic space movie franchise.

“They say ‘Star Wars’ has survived because it goes from generation to generation, and for us, it truly has,” Denise Sproles said.

R2-D2 is just a fun extension of the fandom.

“He really is part of the family,” Sydney said. “It’s really weird when we go somewhere without him. We’re so used to unloading him from the back of the truck that when it comes time to do that, we all just look at each other when he’s not there.”

“We call him Scott’s little buddy,” Denise added.

“He’s just a part of us now,” Scott said.


Source: The (Bedford) Times-Mail, https://bit.ly/2kUZffg


Information from: The Times-Mail, https://www.tmnews.com

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