Preston Comic Con

Back home now and recharging the ol’ batteries after a day at the Guild Hall in Preston for Preston Comic Con. Had a great day, with lots of interactions with other attendees.

A nice early start to the morning (I don’t do early!), a quick load up of R2 into the boot of the car, and off to Preston it was. Getting this down to a fine art, with R2 all ready the night before and a checklist I have in Google Keep. Main thing to remember is the controller, as it wouldn’t be the first (or second) time I’ve set off without it. Thankfully very little traffic and I got to the loading area of the Guild Hall before 9am.

I’d had no contact from the event organiser, so had to guess where I could unload and get ready. Thankfully they had a large freight lift to use and there were some of the vendors there bringing their wares in. Unfortunately, as I was unloading R2 and getting him off his sled I noticed a bare wire hanging down. Even worse, it was a heavy gauge one which meant it was probably for his main drive. A bit of tracing and it turns out that one of the spade connectors going to the drive relay wasn’t crimped properly and had come out. Thats not good. Anyway, I tightened all the leg nuts up and wheeled/dragged him to the lift and up into the main hall.

First thing to do was go and move the car. I couldn’t leave it in the loading bay all day, and had to move it to the nearby multi storey carpark. Easier said than done, due to roadworks and building works on the multi storey, along with the fun of Preston’s one way system. After a few detours and wrong turns I managed to find the entrance to the car park, following a couple in a car with Judge Dredd stickers on the back. Guessing they’re going to the same place. So finally parked up and paid, I grab¬†my toolkit (well, shoe box… need to improve on that) and head back to R2.

Time to see what I can do about this wiring issue. Of course, one choice was to take the relay out of the equation and wire the drive straight to the Sabertooth speed controller. This however would mean I couldn’t remotely deactivate the drive when he isn’t moving and I really didn’t want to do that. I’ve got loads of spare connectors, unfortunately they were at home along with the crimping too. Ok, what have I got in my mobile repair kit? Gorilla tape! I may be able to do something with that. So, taking a small bit of tape, I managed to actually get the wire making good contact with the terminal on the relay. A load more tape held it fast, and even better, it managed to last the entire event! Marvellous stuff, that Gorilla tape, it saved the day!

With R2 fully functioning just in time for the early bird ticket holders to get in, I thought I’d take him for a spin round the main hall. First stop was to say visit Jimmy Vee who is the new guy to play R2D2 in the films after Kenny Bakers passing last year. I’d cleaned up the inside of R2’s back door ready for siging, and Jimmy was the first to get the pleasure.

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R2's first autograph.

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Next, was to say Hi to Robert Llewellyn. Had to point out the R2 and his Tesla had something in common, the power source! It also turns out that I’d left my rucksack in the car with the book I wanted Robert to sign in it. Oh well, I can get that done later. Had a brief chat with him about his YouTube channel, Fully Charged, and he let me know about whats coming in future episodes. I’m very jealous!

With that, I thought I’d see some of the other halls that were on, especially Hall 3 which was where UCLAN were setting up with some fun stuff they had brought, and where I knew a friend had come in her Rey outfit. This gave the biggest problem of the day. The main floor of the Guild Hall is paved with bricks, one of R2’s least favourite surfaces. I tried driving him about on it, but the noise and rattling that was produced made me wince. I really need to improve the center foot system, and I’m glad I made the recent improvement for his ankle lock. Without that improvement I think there would’ve been some serious damage to the foot shell by the end of the day. As it was, the vibrations at one point made the side of his foot and the half moon fall off, which necessitated finding a corner and laying R2 gently onto his back to do some surgery. The vibrations also caused some of the power connections in his dome to work loose which deactivated some of the lighting.

The Gorilla tape held strong tho!

After that, I lifted/dragged R2 across those bits of floor if I needed to move him. Not easy when you have a 65kg+ droid, and a backpack with laptop and toolkit in it. Still, the areas where I spent most of my time were nice and smooth, giving R2 plenty of space to dance around and make a nuisance of himself.

As always, R2 had a great time interacting with everyone at the convention, even the Storm Troopers and evil Empire scum of Spectre Squad. Kids all seemed to love him, and thankfully none of them got too ‘handy’ with him. When they were, the parents were really respectful and stopped them from doing anything damaging. Not that its easy to do much damage, and I work on the premise that if they break something then I just need to make it stronger! A lot of the adults liked him too, and had some nice chats with people, explaining about the R2 Builders Club, and other aspects of the hobby. The reactions from people is one of the main reasons I do these events, it gives a great feeling and the UK Builders Club often describe the results as ‘builders grin’.

Alas, the end of the day had to come, although whilst R2 still had plenty of battery left, I didn’t. There was a last bit of fun to be had when I parked R2 near the stairs up to a seating area and went to rest my feet for a bit. I could keep an eye on R2 from there, but I could be¬†surreptitious enough to control him without being seen. Watching people try to figure out if he could actually see and react to things was very funny. Especially when a couple of lasses were moving round him and I was spinning the dome to follow them.

So the staff started to move us on, I got R2 into the back stage area and went on another adventure to get the car back to the loading bay via another battle with Preston’s one way system and road works. A helpful member of staff helped me with the final lift of R2 into the back of the car, and it was off home for me.

All in all, a really lovely day spent. Special thanks for Nicky as Rey for inviting me along with the UCLAN lot, the combo of R2 and Rey went down quite well. I’ve added a few things to the todo list for R2 improvement, and quite a few items that I need to start bringing as spares. Definitely need to start bringing some spare wire, spade connectors, crimping tools, and deodorant (R2 is heavy, got quite an exercise!).

Looking forward to the next event!

Preston Comic Con Prep

Currently getting ready for a single day convention in Preston. Needed to do a few repairs to R2 after the last event, and as usual I left them all to the last minute. Thankfully for the most part it was tightening up some nuts and bolts (this time putting some loctite on them, lets see if that holds). One major repair was to one of the front door panels where I’d yet again put my knee into it as I was loading R2 onto his sled.

The one improvement I wanted to make before this event tho, was to improve the center ankle lock. After inspection, the previous ankle lock looked like it was going to go through the metal of the foot shell. Not really too surprising as it was just made from two large washers that I’d ground down with the correct profiles. This meant that there was a very small surface area pressing onto the foot shell, with probably half the weight of the droid on it.

The new ankle lock is a much beefier piece of aluminium, with a larger (M4 vs M3) bolt to hold it in place. Surface area onto the foot shell should now be an order of magnitude bigger.

So, with that done I think I am just about ready for tomorrow. I might polish up the inside of his back door seeing as the new R2 guy is at the con, and may get him to sign it. Have to do some tests to see how well sharpie does on metal, and ways to protect it once its done.

Google keep list is ready and cleared so I can check everything off in the morning. Hopefully I won’t do the usual and forget his controller.

Come say hi if you’re there.