Ed Catmull, the first CEO of Pixar, is a fascinating thinker with some incredible ideas about running a creative team.  In one presentation, he was discussing why everyone loved the movie Toy Story.  It isn’t because it’s a single great idea, he said, Toy Story is a collection of great ideas.  Everyone brought their ideas to the table, and, together, they all made Toy Story great.  This project was very similar.

Although the “Stertman rendering” was a large source of the inspiration, the final design pulled from many sources. Over the years, family and friends have also shared their ideas.  At one point, this was a Much simpler concept that just grew over time.  In this post, I’ll share several of the smaller ideas that came together to make a big idea. 

Arc Reactor Mk. 1Prop inspired by Iron Man mark 1 model

When you walk into my workshop (beyond these doors), the motion activated lights turn.  My daughter says it’s like walking into Tony Stark’s laboratory.  Fortunately, that’s sort of the vibe I was going for.  In the original design, I wasn’t really sure what the circular “vents” were intended to do or be.  They sort of looked like speakers (at one point, I was planning to put speakers here), but that just didn’t feel right.  The original Iron Man movie was a huge inspiration for me, so why not include an homage to my favorite super hero?

Bolt head with binary number 2016 on itEstablished 992 AD

When I got around to designing the bolts for the metal bulkhead, I was at a loss.  If you look at contemporary bolts, they typically have some markings on them.  Of course, that doesn’t exactly scream science fiction.  A plain bolt, on the other hand, is just boring. 

I had been playing around with the idea of capturing the year I started working on the project somewhere in the design.  Then it hit me.  Computers represent all numbers as a series of zeros and ones (this is called binary).  The number zero is 0, one is 1, but then it gets tricky.  Two is 10, three is 11, four is 100, and so forth.  Yeah, it might be a long way for people to count, but it’s easy for computers.  The binary for 2016 is 11111100000 (six 1’s followed by five 0’s). If you look closely at the bolt, you will see 1111100000 (five 1’s followed by five 0’s).  Apparently, I didn’t count the number of 1’s closely enough.  So, just like in my day job, no project is free from bugs.

The Flux Capacitor

Hailed by Doc Brown as “the thing that makes time travel possible,” the flux capacitor was introduced into our imaginations in the 1985 film, Back to the Future.  We may never know if it actually enables time travel because it is built into a wall (and not a Delorean).  If I ever get the house to 88 miles per hour, I’ll let you know what happens.

This was actually the last addition to the project.  After connecting some of the electronics, I accidentally dropped my ladder and it hit the wall leaving an ugly gash behind.  Having recently been admonished for omitting the flux capacitor, this was an obvious addition.  My wife had the best suggestion, “add lasers.”  While you can’t see it very well in this picture, the final design incorporated 4 lasers.

Prop item Inspired by Iron Man's Arc Reactor Mark 3 (or was it mark 4)?Arc Reactor Mk. 3

The other circle needed something and, no matter how cool the original arc reactor was, I really didn’t want to wind all those copper coils again.  Besides, it’s okay to have heterogeneous power sources right?

This was one of the quickest builds since it was mostly 3D printing. 


Droid / Programming PortProp inspired by the Star Wars Death Star droid port

How could this project be complete without a droid port?  Not only is this an homage to Star Wars, it was partially inspired by the guys over at The Smuggler’s Room.  They were a huge source of inspiration throughout this project. 

I really love this piece because it doubles as an actual programming port!  The center area (the coppery/red bit) pops out and has the computer programming cord attached to it.  Cool, huh?  Okay, maybe not, but super geeky!  And that’s what we’re going for.

Control Panel for the Science Function DoorThe Control Panel

With each section, I want to write, “this is one of my favorite pieces.”  This really means that each part captures a different part of my imagination and this part is no exception.  In some ways, this part is a little disappointing.  It is certainly the most “retro” of all the components.  This has an early space age vibe.  Hope you like it.  This has a lot of animated light components, a motion sensor, three functional buttons, a “mode selector” switch, and the lighted power switch.  The power switch was actually an afterthought (more about that later).  This panel prominently features a “Larson Scanner”  that will be familiar to Knight Rider and Battlestar Galactica fans.

Until Next Time

Thanks for going through this with me!  It has been so much fun walking through this quick overview and I cannot wait to share the rest of the build with you!  In the next post, we will start working through the wall and door build.  Of course…that is only the beginning!