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Making A Vintage Star Wars AT-AT Walker

December 18, 2015
AT AT Walker

David's goal was to power his old AT-AT Walker toy from the mid 1980s, with an arduino uno to walk and function similar to the ones seen in Star Wars.  Most people are familiar with these 73.8ft, four-legged Galactic Empire combat walkers from the Star Wars movie, “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Dave was kind enough to explain his build in further detail….

What inspired you to build it? Where did you get the idea?

I wanted to use the Arduino for a robotics project but I had trouble thinking of a unique idea. I was visiting my parents and going through my old toys in their attic when I saw my AT-AT Walker.  That was when I knew what I wanted to build.  AT-AT Walkers looked so cool in The Empire Strikes Back and I thought it would be great if I could make the toy walk and remote control.

at-at-walker

How long did it take to build?

I started working on this project about two years ago. The reason it took almost two years to complete is because I have very limited free time when I am not working my 9 to 5.  I also perform software development contract work in the evening and on weekends and I always try to leave time for my family.  This left a small amount of time each week to work on the AT-AT walker.

What difficulties/challenges did you run into while designing/building? What was frustrating?

The main challenges I faced during the project were:

  1. I wanted to use as much of the toy as possible while making sure I was able to accomplish the goal of making it walk. This was difficult because I had to drill holes into the plastic components and I wasn’t sure how well the parts would stay together. This was a time consuming and frustrating process because vintage AT-AT walkers are expensive and I only had one to work with.
  2. Trying to determine the final design. I tried implementing a number of designs but I actually settled on my original concept.
  3. Quadrupedal movement within the confines of the toy. The legs are plastic, somewhat clumsy, and balance/keeping the robot from falling over during movement was a challenge.

What went well?

Programming the robot wasn’t as big of a challenge as I originally anticipated because of my software engineering and computer science background. Also the Arduino IDE is easy to use and they have great examples.  Adafruit also provides a library for their servo shield which was easy to integrate.

Favorite part about this project?

I was able to take this concept from the idea in my head and bring it to life.  I failed a number of times during this project but I kept making changes until it worked.

Interested in building your own AT-AT Walker? Check out Dave’s Parts List below:

  • AT-AT Walker You can find an old AT-AT Walker on eBay. I wouldn’t recommend using a mint condition walker. Find something old and beat up yet still functional.
  • Xbox 360 controller

Actobotics Structural Components:

AT-AT-Parts

 

Micro Controller
Arduino Uno This is the microcontroller that will contain the software to actually make the walker move. These can be found on various sites.

Servos

Servo Shield and Components

Software

  • Arduino  You will use the IDE that comes with this download to write your source code to make the walker head and body move.
  • Processing This software will help your Xbox controller communicate with your Arduino via serial input.
  • Xpadder (Windows) This software will help map your Xbox controller to the keys on your keyboard so they can be processed to the Arduino. I used this on Windows and the next item in the list I used on my Mac.
  • Joystick Mapper (Mac) This is the software I used on my Mac to map my Xbox 360 controller.

Tools

 Dave’s not done though.  Upcoming customization include wireless control, camera, movement and control of the cannons (underneath head and on side), and vertical movement of head.  To stay up-to-date on Dave’s AT-AT Walker project be sure to visit his site.

 

I wanted to use the Arduino for a robotics project but I had trouble thinking of a unique idea. I was visiting my parents and going through my old toys in their attic when I saw my AT-AT Walker.  That was when I knew what I wanted to build.  AT-AT Walkers looked so cool in The Empire Strikes Back and I thought it would be great if I could make the toy walk and remote control.

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