'Star Wars' fan gathers support for life-size AT-AT

The force is strong with Michael Koehler, an Oklahoma City man who is drumming up support to build one of the largest land vehicles in the "Star Wars" universe.

This massive AT-AT resides at the Star Tours attraction in Walt Disney World, Florida. Michael Koehler dreams of building a fully functional, full-scale walker. CC HarshLight/Flickr

In the classic "Star Wars" sequel "The Empire Strikes Back," a group of massive Imperial AT-ATs (All Terrain Armored Transports) led by General Veers slowly stomped across the ice plains of Hoth to destroy pesky Rebel scum. The vehicle was enormous (at least 15 to 20 meters tall), clunky, and walked on four legs like an elephant.

Now, Michael Koehler, a 38-year-old social-media consultant who lives in Oklahoma City, is aiming to bring this mechanical monstrosity to life in a campaign called "AT-AT for America." The name couldn't be any more viral.

His vision is simple: create a fully functional, full-scale AT-AT by including anyone who is interested in helping build the colossal transport. The project almost reads like a political movement, as Koehler believes a collective effort to build an AT-AT will help boost morale in the U.S. by showing the world "our brain power, our manufacturing prowess, our organizational skills and our geek-fueled eye for detail." He declares that the larger-than-life model would inspire the "nerds, makers, geeks, motorheads, sportos, dudes, steampunks, Jedis, halfwits, greasers and geniuses to band together for one goal."

Mechanical minds are coming together to build what was once fiction. The Essential Guide to Star Wars Vehicles and Vessels

A fundraising page will go up soon on the popular Kickstarter Web site, which could be a significant source of funding for the real-life AT-AT if "Star Wars" fans are convinced this idea is worth their credits. Koehler notes on the AT-AT for America Web site that the project has received volunteer support from roboticists, engineers, and even someone from MIT. There is an open call for people to contribute as builders and project managers, as well as in legal and public relations roles. The amount of planning, manpower, and cost of resources could be as large as the AT-AT itself.

"Based on our rough plans, we would split it up into several build teams around the country," Koehler told the New York Daily News. Parts would be built in various locations, and then the final assembly could happen near his Oklahoma home.

Is there any weakness to an AT-AT? Luke Skywalker helped destroy the hulking giant by wrapping its legs with a tow cable from his T-47 airspeeder, which caused the walker to trip and fall. The greatest threat to a real-life AT-AT could be George Lucas and his lawyers, who have yet to publicly respond to this project.

May the legal force be with you, Koehler.

 

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