Droid-making workshop electrifies library

Ariba and Philip are all smiles as they drive their droid throughout the Steam room.

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

Any person who has ever seen “Star Wars” knows the feeling of wanting to have a droid of one’s own. Whether it’s the worrisome C3-PO, the talkative but helpful R2-D2, the small and sassy BB-8, or one of the hundreds of others from the “Star Wars” universe, there seems to be a favorite droid for everyone.

On Thursday, August 1, kids were invited to the children’s room at the Needham Library to make their perfect droid.

Kids in attendance walked into the room and instantly spotted the identical droid kits on each table. “I want blue, like R2,” said one child, after realizing some pieces resembled the famous droid.

Once the children had sorted themselves into groups, these amateur droid builders started their work. Following step-by-step directions on an iPad application, they began by putting together the test switch. “If it’s red, it’s working,” explained one kid to his group. Next, the kids attached the control hub to the power bit by clipping them together, and then connecting them to the iPad. As they finished this step, the kids were given the chance to pick their droid’s voice. Many chose a screechy series of pings, similar to that of R2-D2. Others opted to record their voice onto the droid.

“But it doesn’t look like R2-D2 yet,” said one child, “it looks like a box.”

The next step had participants getting their droids moving. With wheels attached to their droids, along with head pieces, the droids were looking more and more like the R2 units from “Star Wars.” Kids then used the app to move their droids. “We got it!” cheered one group when their robot started rolling about the table.

“I want you guys to try to figure out the controls. And make sure he doesn’t drive off a table. We haven’t gotten there yet,” explained Librarian Veronica McCarthy as the young droid makers drove their creations across their tables.

As some teams finished building their droids, others moved onto bonus missions. One team added a Crayola marker into a holder on their droid and drove it over a piece of paper to create a scribble. A droid belonging to another group trying this exercise drove over the paper onto the floor. “Why is he such a bad droid?” sighed one exasperated kid.

One group took the project a step further and switched its droid to self-driving mode. With the ability to sense obstacles in front of it, the droid made its way around the room on its own.

For just an hour, these kids were just like a young Anakin Skywalker: making their own droids and programming them to work in just the right way for them to function. For them, it was an hour well-spent, bringing them a tiny bit closer to having one of their favorite movies come to life.

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