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R2-Be-Calm: Is this the droid you’re looking for?

Education

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — You’ve heard of R2D2. But how about R2-Be-Calm?

Holister Mala loves technology and anything “Star Wars.” The 8-year-old from Tigard also has autism and entered an international competition to design and build a droid.

So, he built R2-Be-Calm.

Hollister Mala, 8, invented this droid named R2-Be-Calm to help kids with autism stay calm. The Tigard 2nd-grader took 3rd place in a nationwide competition, April 6, 2018 (KOIN)

Tech start-up littleBits, which creates electronic blocks, teamed up with Lucasfilm to challenge young Star Wars fans to design and create custom droids using the Little Bits inventor kit.

The competition was right up Hollister’s alley.

“At the time, it was hard for me in loud stores, so that’s how we thought of the idea of building a droid to help me stay calm,” Hollister said. 

R2-Be-Calm has a fabric head you can pet. The droid senses noise and shares tools, like headphones or a fidget spinner.

“There’s a proximity sensor attached to a fidget spinner so when you put your hand in front of it will probably do it. It will probably spin,” he said. “I like that because you’re using the force to spin the fidget spinner,” he said.

His mom, Laurie Mala, said Hollister is amazing. “Computers, technology are clearly his thing and it just comes so naturally to him. That’s what’s amazing.”

Hollister thinks R2-Be-Calm “could help other kids with autism stay calm. There’s a lot of different things to help you stay calm.”

It took about a week over winter break to build the droid. “I worked on this a lot when I had time with Mommy.”

Photos: Hollister Mala and his droid R2-Be-Calm

“We’d come up with some things together and he would take them,” Laurie said. “Then the next thing I know he’d come back and he’d have a circuit made with all these littleBits and it would have a fidget spinning.” 

She said her son’s brain “absorbs so much information and he remembers so much and he’s so creative.”

Out of hundreds of kids who entered, Hollister won 3rd place and is already thinking about what’s next.

“I was thinking my next project I would build is I am trying to build my own computer.”

But he also has his sights set on a longer goal. When asked what he wanted to do when he grows up, the 2nd-grader said, “Most of the time I’m not that sure. But I was thinking, like, maybe Mission Control at NASA.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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