When the original Star Wars came out in 1977, nearly every character was a stand out. But none more so for me than R2-D2. My poor mother had to scour Sioux City to find any R2-D2 action figure she could get her hands on. My 6-year old self just couldn’t stand to NOT have one.
Learning More About R2
Digging into the character a bit, I learned that while R2-D2 was his signification, he was part of a droid class called Astromechs. It’s a shortened version of “astrological mechanic” since these droids served as automated repair robots on starships. They also served as co-pilots, plotting courses and making small repairs in flight—as well as calculating hyperspace jumps to get the fighter where it needed to be.
A Whole World of Astromechs
Learning about the broader class of droids opened up a whole new world of characters. R5-D4 (predecessor to R2-D2) and his close cousin R5-D8 were always interesting with their angled heads. There was also R2-Q5, a shiny black R2 unit who worked for the Empire performing nefarious deeds.
And most recently, BB-8, a cute round droid who rolls around omni-directionally, and his counterpart in the Empire BB-9E. There are thousands of Astromechs in the Star Wars universe, each with their own personality and purpose.
Bringing Astromechs Into Our Culture
I’ve always had an R2-D2 on my desk. It’s just part of my memorabilia I keep around me. This sparked some conversation quite a while ago, and our team at the time thought it would be fun to turn them into a tradition at work. We found a source on eBay and every employee was given a budget to buy their own, unique Astromech designed specifically for them.
In addition to eBay, anytime a team member goes to Disneyland or Disney World we ask them to bring back 3 droids of their choosing. Both parks have a “build your own Astromech” area in the gift shop.
Taking it a Step Further
With our most recent group of interns, we’ve also started giving them a BB-8 figure when their internship ends. Just a little way for them to remember the quirky culture of this agency they worked at.
This year, we also had the idea to develop custom drive icons for everyone’s computer in the style of their Astromech. Jesse did a fantastic job pulling these together. We also created a naming scheme for our own Astromechs using each person’s initials and the year they were born. So mine, for instance, would be J7-G1.
The Importance of Culture
Does it matter that we give everyone an Astromech? Probably not. Does it matter that we recognize their 1-year anniversary? Definitely.
Our Astromech is just a quirky part of how Star Wars influenced some of us growing up, and is influencing a whole new generation. And a way we bring recognition into our culture. That’s the important part. Plus, it’s always fun to get a cute toy at work.