BYU grad rises to notoriety with replica Star Wars droid BB-8

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Replica of Star Wars droid BB-8. The droid was built from a modified Sphero toy. (Christian Poulsen)
Replica of Star Wars droid BB-8. The droid was built from a modified Sphero toy. (Christian Poulsen)

Graduating BYU industrial design student Christian Poulsen is amassing attention from Star Wars fans and media outlets because of his replica of the latest Star Wars droid, BB-8.

Poulsen posted a video of the model droid on YouTube. The video currently has more than 350,000 views and is reposted on dozens of blogs and news websites.

Wired Magazine gave Poulsen high praise. “Judging by the popularity of BB-8, it won’t be long until others improve on his work.” IGN Entertainment recently tried to replicate Poulsen’s design, but “the results weren’t quite as impressive as Poulsen’s.”

“He’s a great industrial designer,” BYU professor Paul Skaggs said of Poulsen. “The droid model is not a school project; he just did it on his own.”

Poulsen found his inspiration for the project from Star Wars Celebration, an all-things-Star Wars convention held this year in Anaheim, which hosted the first physical appearance of the new BB-8 Star Wars droid.

“I was watching the video where they unveiled BB-8,” Poulsen said. “A lot of people assumed it was CGI, but then they showed the real thing. I thought, if they can do it, why can’t I?”

In a single day, Poulsen built a working model of the droid using a Sphero toy from Orbotix, the same company hired by Lucasfilm to design BB-8.

The droid in question applies technology found in both the Sphero toy and many smartphones, including a gyroscope and an accelerometer.

“It was just fun to build,” Poulsen said. “I bought the Sphero at the BYU Bookstore, because it was on sale last fall. It was a total impulse buy. When I started putting BB-8 all together, the Sphero had just been sitting around, and I thought I would use it.”

Poulsen’s experience with industrial design goes beyond personal projects and droid design. He was chosen to represent BYU in the Industrial Designers Society of America Regional Conference, where he placed third.

Poulsen worked as an intern with Cinco Design in Portland, Oregon, and contributed to the Wasatch Design Collective, a venue where BYU students can exhibit their work.

Poulsen graduated last week and is applying to graduate school in Iceland, where he has already displayed some of his work this year.

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