When a small team of Ithaca College students set out to build a life-sized working replica of BB-8 from “Star Wars,” they weren’t sure they could do it. But they relied on the immortal words of Yoda: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Associate professor Edward Schneider knew if you take students’ interests and marry them with a creative learning environment, great things will happen. He had this in mind when he advised communication management and design student Garrett Chin ’18 on his senior project to construct an operational BB-8.
The 18-month undertaking wasn’t only about building a prop replica of BB-8. The goal was to create one that was affordable and included instructions educators could use in a makerspace environment, a collaborative workspace inside a school or library.
“We wanted schools to know two things. One, that there is a lower barrier of entry for a robotics program. And two, that students are more excited by education connected to fandom,” said Lauren Suna ’20, the project team’s robotics consultant.
Chin secured $800 in funding through a James B. Pendleton Student Research and Production Grant and the Roy H. Park School of Communication’s Innovation Lab sponsorship. His next challenge was to identify a team with the right interests, experience and background to support the endeavor. The team led by Chin included Suna, Avery Herzog ’18 and Bennie Lemus ’18. Suna had robotics experience from high school. Herzog was a Park School animation student responsible for developing the BB-8 graphics. Lemus was a finance major who helped with budgeting and building the robot.