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Overjoyed With His Droid

By Lauren Brown


John T. Consoli

John T. Consoli

MartinazziBob Martinazzi only had to lift a finger to win a starring role at a Washington Nationals game, the AwesomeCon convention and even a White House party with the president and first lady.

Martinazzi, director of construction and facilities procurement, transportation and physical distribution in the Department of Procurement and Strategy Sourcing as well as a lifelong “Star Wars” fan, built a full-size, fully functional R2-D2 robot that he controls with a small remote and brings to community and charitable events.

“I really get a kick out of it,” he says. “I enjoy having R2-D2 in my living room, making random noises.”

Martinazzi, who saw the original “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” in the theater five times in 1977, wasn’t the first little boy awestruck by the film. But he was surely among only a few who wanted to build their own adorable droid. R2, he says, inspired him to pursue a career in engineering.

He graduated from the Naval Academy, then earned master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering from umd in 1995 and 1996. And while his love for the “Star Wars” franchise (and his Kenner action figures) faded in early adulthood, it was rekindled by the release of new books, updated 3.75-inch figures and special-edition DVDs of the trilogy.

At a “Star Wars” convention in 2002, he discovered a group of fellow “tech geeks” who’d built their own R2s. A decade later, a friend in the D.C. Metro Area Star Wars Collecting Club finished his own, convincing Martinazzi that it was doable and affordable.

He spent eight months cutting, sanding and painting styrene plastic, gluing the parts together following instructions online, then building the motor and electronics (incorporating a PlayStation 3 move controller).

Since finishing his droid in 2014, Martinazzi continues to tinker with it, upgrading its lights and opening panels to R2’s head.

Between attending Cub Scout and library events, Martinazzi was invited to the White House in December for the screening of “The Force Awakens.” There, children of fallen military members gawked, smiled and took photos with his R2-D2, while Martinazzi controlled him from a distance. When President and Michelle Obama appeared, Martinazzi was prepared: He’d programmed R2 to break out with “Hail to the Chief” and “Uptown Funk,” then the first lady’s favorite song.

And while his own kids, ages 11 and 15, aren’t “Star Wars” junkies, Martinazzi says he isn’t giving up on his son tagging along for R2 appearances: “I’m trying to get him a Jawa costume while he’s still short.”

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