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Maker of Maker Faire – Matthew Reading, Droid Builder

By JoAnne 1 Nov 2018

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Matt Reading with his droids

Matt Reading works “in pensions” during the day, but by night (and sometimes on the weekends) he is a droid maker. He’s just one of the makers – creatives, artists, crafters, scientists and engineers – showcasing their hobbies, experiments, projects and skills at Maker Faire, taking place on 4 November at Shed 6.

Maker Faire festivals take place in cities all over the world, and Wellington is hosting the very first one here in New Zealand (brought here by Capital E). It’s a family-friendly gathering for both kids and adults, and showcases fascinating, curious creators who enjoy learning and love sharing what they do, so they can inspire other makers in the making.

Many of them are self-taught. Which brings us back to Matt, who has built the only working replica of Star Wars’ droid, BB8, in New Zealand, and taught himself to do it – with absolutely no previous experience. All it takes, he says, is a bit of curiosity, initiative and a good dose of Googling.


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BB8's head (his body was too heavy to carry on the train!)

Tell us a bit about your droids here!

Today I’ve brought BB8’s head (his body is too heavy to carry on the train!) and my Mouse Droid. They’re both characters from the Star Wars franchise. BB8 took me about a year to build from start to finish, and the Mouse Droid took about three months to build. But I was taking it easy with that one - it was pretty simple. My favourite is BB8. It took so long and was so complicated. So he’s got the most amount of time invested in him.

How did you get into droid and replica making?

I do pensions by day, and before that I was a police officer, so I have no background in anything like this! About six years ago, I made an Iron Man suit as a costume for the [NZ Rugby] Sevens, and it really just peaked my interest in replicating things from movies. So when I saw the new Star Wars movie and BB8, I thought, “I want one! How do I get one?”

Iron Man
Matt in the costume that started it all.

How did you learn how to make droids?

I’ve put flat-pack furniture together before, but nothing like this! I had no background at all in it. Never even made a dress-up costume before. Just saw someone who’d made a replica, and went, “Wow, that’s amazing!’. I saw how they did it and thought it looked like something I might be able to do, then cracked on with it, really! It’s just practice.

It involved lot of research. In the movies, they actually use puppets of BB8, and subsequently, it has been fans who have created full-working R2Ds, BB8s and C3POs, so there is a lot of information about this on the internet. That’s one of the great things about the internet is that it’s all out there, and you can use the it as a learning resource.

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What is the inspiration for your creations?

A lot of sci-fi. You can use the word ‘nerd’, if you like!

What will you be presenting at Maker Faire?

My exhibit will be based around how building droids isn’t hard or doesn’t have to be hard. I recently made another Mouse Droid, and I made it in 70 mins from start to finish with tools that you can find in your kitchen drawer and stuff from K-mart. And that’s with no specialist tools, no specialist knowledge. All the other things I’ve done are just extensions of the same skill base. You can start small and work up from there.

What has been your biggest challenge as a maker?

I’ve got two answers to that. The first is slightly boring: computer programming to make BB8 work. I had zero experience and the learning curve is almost vertical. It was very basic computer code but for me it was very complicated! The second would be the time. Trying to squeeze it in around family life! I’ve got a young family, so I do it all in the evenings. The kids get very excited when Dad brings out his droids. I chase [the kids] around the house with them!

BB8 Body
BB8 in all his glory
BB8 Inside
The inner workings of BB8

Why do you think people should go to Maker Faire this weekend?

Just inspiration! Some people have latent ability, but they might be not inspired enough to go out and try to do something like this. Or perhaps they don’t know where to start, and having that resource available with all these different makers around is a fantastic opportunity. You can find something that inspires you and the makers are right there for you to ask and chat with. It’s the first Maker Faire in New Zealand, so I think it will be a great event.

I’m excited about the opportunity to talk to people who are interested in similar things and get inspiration from other people too!

Advice for future makers?

Just start. Give it a go. Don’t’ be afraid of any potential challenges there are. Don’t be afraid to fail, because that’s where you learn. If something goes right, you don’t learn much beyond what you’ve done. Whereas if you go through a process, you gain a lot more insight.

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