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The purpose of this Instructable is to give a brief overview of the process I went through to create an Animatronic Wheatley. Wheatley was a project I did for the Salt Lake Comic-Con Fan Xperience 2014. Over the course of two months, I spent my free time assembling one of the greatest projects that I've ever attempted. Thankfully, everything has worked out, and I have a working, moving, talking Wheatley! Like I said, this will be a brief overview. More pictures, videos, and details are found on my Blog, which I've referenced at the end of this Instructable. I know he might be a little rough around the edges but, quote Wheatley himself, "It's still a work in progress, don't judge me yet!"
Thanks for viewing!
~ Luke A.
More info at animatronicwheatley.com
Step 1: Brainstorming & Parts
When I decided to start this project, I made several little schematics and drawings; basically I got out all of my ideas on how to make this project work. Most of these drawings are now lost to me, due to there being so many.
Also, the Portal Authoring Tools from Steam (specifically the Model Viewer) really helped me visualize what type of motion Wheatley has and what I might be able to do.
Building Wheatley took a lot of time and money. I was in my Senior year of High School, and graduated in May 2014. From February to April (the duration of the project), I was attending school and then working at my job right afterwards. Factor these two things out, and Wheatley probably could've been completed in three to four weeks.
One of the hardest, most frustrating, yet most enjoyable parts of doing a project like this is the fact that you're messing around, tweaking things here and there, trying to find what works. The fun is in the problem solving!
As far as parts go, let me give you an idea of what I used:(Please note that this is NOT a complete parts list.)
Arduino UNO Rev. 3
Velleman Sound-to-Light Kit
2 Standard Servos
1 Micro Servo
2 Axis Joystick
2 12" Styrofoam Hemispheres
...just to name a few.
Step 2: Movement & Cosmetics
As far as Wheatley's overall movement, that turned out easier than I expected. After digging around on my favorite DIY site Instructables.com, I discovered a wonderful guide by biomech75, titled Arduino + 2 Servos + Thumbstick (joystick). This article became the base of Wheatley's movement. After making some simple adjustments to the Arduino code (so Wheatley couldn't tear his own head off!), Wheatley was free as a bird!
After some careful planning, I began carving out the details of Wheatley's inner and outer shells. Using an X-Acto Knife (marked to control depth) and a Styrofoam cutter (for the bigger holes), it only took a couple days to get the Styrofoam Hemispheres looking like a Personality Core. I also used the X-Acto method to carve the details on and around where the eye plate sits.
Step 3: Wiring & Finish Detail
Ahh Wiring; my old Nemesis. (lol)
This project really helped me understand and appreciate the power of Printed Circuit Boards. What a time saver! Unfortunately, my skills at even trying to make one are so severely lacking that I actually laughed when the thought crossed my mind. Thus, while this project did teach me how to solder, I had to wire basically everything by hand.
I had a lot of people ask me if I had used a PS3/Xbox controller to start with. While that would've been cool, it certainly wasn't very time or cost effective, so I just stuck with my RadioShack parts. After making sure everything worked, I fed the wires through a cord organizer and wrapped the controller with electrical tape.
Once everything was built and in working condition, the obvious next step was to make Wheatley look like Wheatley. I started by covering his shell in paper mache. As for the paint-job, I am very grateful for my neighbor and oldest friend Hydee Yearling. She has been creating art for longer than I can remember, and her skills and styles are uniquely awesome!
After I completed the wiring for the controller, Hydee came back and did a final touch-up, adding the cracks, chips, scrapes, and dents, as well as some printed graphics. We finished the paint job off with a matte clear-coat. If you'd like to see more of her work, you can check it out here: Curious Dee.
Step 4: Finished Wheatley!
Overall, I am very impressed with the results of this project. There were some bumps along the way, but as far as backyard animatronics go, I think I did a pretty good job. Also, one thing to remember: It's not that hard! You too could own your very own Animatronic Wheatley!
Well, that's it! If you're looking for a more in-depth explanation about my Wheatley project, or need inspiration for your own project, please feel free to visit my website: Animatronic Wheatley: An Animatronic Puppet Project