AT-AT for America: restore America's glory with a functional, full-scale Imperial Walker

Mike Koehler dreams of restoring America to greatness. He plans to do this by galvanizing a community of "nerds, makers, geeks, motorheads, sportos, dudes, steampunks, Jedis, halfwits, greasers and geniuses" to build a full-scale, functional Imperial AT-AT Walker. He calls the project AT-AT for America. I think that this plan is at least as good as the one where we gave all that money to those banks who destroyed the planet's economy and then they gave it to their senior execs as performance bonuses.
We were once a country that made things: giantmetal cars, Hoover Dams, non-AutoTuned popular music.

But now we are stuck in an economy in limbo, surrounded by our Internets, our hipsters and our arguing politicians.

Nerds, I have a great idea to make America great again. We can show our brain power, our manufacturing prowess, our organizational skills and our geek-fueled eye for detail.

That idea: an AT-AT for America.

Now I have an idea, but no money and a total lack of mechanical aptitude.

The Dream: An AT-AT for America (via Make)



  1. As cool as an AT-AT for America would be, I think I’d rather see Detroit re-emerge by making Autobots for America…

  2. I think Burning Man would be a great location to put her together and test her out. Maybe she can be programmed to auto-assemble solar arrays in the desert. Just don’t get the military involved. You know how those guys love to blow things up and burn things down unlike the people at Burning Man.. oh.. wait…

    1. @GuyInMilwaukee is right. it’s gotta be a burning man project. it’s perfect. as a symbolic gesture, i’m all for this — spread the word!

  3. Nothing like building the tech of an evil empire to console the US for its flagging imperial status. The limeys actually got national health, we might get an AT-AT.

  4. I’m too busy reading about my friend’s kids t-ball games on Facebook to be bothered with the restoration of America’s pride.

    Now giant gundams for Japan — that would be awesome, and useful. Get a Neon Genesis Evangelion robot, give it a big hose filled with liquid nitrogen… cool down those reactors stat.

  5. I love this idea and am firmly in support of it. However, a to-scale AT-AT is an engineering impossibility. #buzzkill

    1. I would think anything that uses slow firing laser cannons would be. Still if you drop solid metal for possibly hollow composite or fiber, you might be able to shave enough weight to get something motile as long as the legs don’t cave on themselves.

      I say let him try and take this idea to where the impossible and possible meet, the possimpible.

  6. These guys sell themselves short. I’m pretty sure that a “full-scale, functional” model of a walker is not in fact a model. It’s an actual-fucking-walker.

  7. Skip forward to a bunch of Ewoks dancing around a fire with storm trooper heads on sticks. Yeah, that’s how that idea works out.

  8. Wasn’t it an incredibly stupid design though? The Rebels defeated them by just *tripping* them, for crying out loud. I think we should build an Ogre cybertank, myself.

  9. I think this is a great idea and we should totally do it. Also, I offer my yard as a place for you all to build it.

    Also, I’m kinda mad at my parents right now that I didn’t have that AT-AT playset in the photo above.

  10. Yeah, this will show the world that America doesn’t have Imperial intentions.

    And I’m sure if there were profit in it, defense contractors would already have one to sell to the government.

    1. I’m pretty sure the world is onto us by now. We might as well go full-on Imperial, walker and all.

  11. I like the idea of participating in this in some way, but I can think of a few hurdles that would make it especially difficult. First of all, what sort of power source would it have? I don’t think I’d want it to be a gas-powered walker.

    1. Unless it’s Tibanna-gas powered. :-)
      Yeah, star wars does tend to be especially vague on how stuff is supposed to work.

  12. What happens if two kids lean out the front side of the platform while the speederbike is at its forward apex and the entire thing was installed on a slightly forward incline right at the edge of a swimming pool that has been emptied of water in preparation for winter?

  13. This will be so much cooler than an Apollo program worth of geek resources going towards “climate disruption” or boring abstract crap like that. Make the AT-AT so it excretes Robocop statues and drive it through Detroit.

  14. I’m thinking we get everyone with a MakerBot out there to print out just one piece. Then, everyone brings their piece of the AT-AT to Burning Man, and it gets assembled bit by bit.

  15. I appreciate this both as a cool project and as a parody of poorly thought out public works projects.

  16. How about a 2-legged walker as “proof of concept” before we sink in more resources? The way it waddled back and forth, it would at least make a great cocktail shaker if nothing else.

  17. OR we could just build a full-scale ship that belonged to the GOOD GUYS.

    After talking to Steve Sansweet about my project, I’m not sure how Lucasfilm licensing will feel about the AT-AT project going through Kickstarter…

    But hey, more power to the guy if he can get it going. I’d love to do a cross-promotional thing, or maybe even a contest to see who can finish first…

    1. Your site has an incredible lack of photos, designs/drawings, etc. Apparently you’ve got some designs, a big area of cleared land, and some basic starting points done, but the site is 100% devoid of photos or video. There are a few links but they’re either dead or “coming soon”.

      Back to the AT-AT, the whole proposal and especially the “Now I have an idea, but no money and a total lack of mechanical aptitude” bit is ridiculous and bordering on offensive. He’s unwittingly (unless it’s *supposed* to be satire) illustrated the actual problem with US innovation. Ideas are cheap, but the know-how to actualize the idea is not, and that’s what’s leaving the US.

      And this isn’t even a *good* idea! There are thousands of actually good ideas out there that people don’t have the money or aptitude to do anything with. I appreciate the thought of an Apollo-type program invigorating science and engineering across the country, and as an unemployed scientist I wish the US would do something like that and that I could be involved, but this is just stupid in comparison. Even though to actually build such a thing would require a similar effort as Apollo!

      1. There are many engineers, researchers and scientists who at least some of their initial interest in their fields to a work of fiction. If people want to invest their time and money in this project because it makes them happy or will give them a sense of accomplishment, that’s their prerogative. Sure there are great ideas out there, many with greater utility. I for one wish there was a better way to search them out and get people to them. And some of BoingBoing’s wonderful things are ideas like that. But lambasting something that could possibly inspire and draw some great minds together is one of the major reasons why the know-how is leaving the US. You don’t know if any wonderfully emergent thinking could come out of this project or of any of the relationships something this strangely involved could cultivate.

        Let them have their fun.

  18. Full scale is a bit ambitious for an actual construction project I think, I mean, the thing is like 65 feet tall. I could see maybe 1:3 scale being achievable though. That might be just enough room for on-board power, motive mechanicals and a driver, and it’s not so big that it can’t be transported by truck (heh, I’d love to see it walk up on a truck and sit down, camel-like, for transport).

  19. The idea that this country “doesn’t make things anymore” is a pernicious myth.

    The US is the world’s largest manufacturing economy, producing more than one fifth of all the world’s manufactured goods.

    1.6 trillion dollars’ worth in 2009 – about 11% of our total GDP.

    Even if that weren’t the case, the suggestion – even in jest – that a bunch of geeks building a mechanized Star Wars prop could somehow lead to the reversal of that supposed ‘problem’ skates awkwardly down the border between embarrassing self-aggrandizement and ignorant unthinking offensiveness.

    Looks like a fun project, though.

  20. The kid in me loves this idea, so I say go for it.

    But let’s all grown up here for one moment. The spirit of American ingenuity is based in innovators seeking to make things that, hopefully, improve our lives or move society in a direction (hopefully forward). Everyone from Edison to Gates to Jobs (and their companies filled with like-minded innovators) worked and continue to work to solve real-world problems or fill needs for real-world applications.

    Building a real-life AT AT is not really honoring that spirit. It’s more the sign of a society obsessed with the fictional, perhaps because we can’t deal (or won’t don’t) with the real problems set before us.

    This is really a public art project, if you think about it. And, hey, nothing wrong with that. Just don’t say it’s more than that because at it’s heart, it’s not.

    And, hey, who knows maybe they’ll accidentally discover some new method that can contribute to robotics (even though that would be a side-effect of the means to an end).

  21. An AT-AT is cool, but why not make a Millennium Falcon instead? I think that is much more useful. As someone else said, you can trip an AT-AT. You can’t trip a Millennium Falcon. Besides, if you still want to go to Mars I would hurry up and build a spaceship. Then why not make it cool? As Dr. Brown said: if you’re gonna build a time machine, you’ve got to do it with style!

  22. There’s a lot of money to be made here.

    That thing is sure to tip over, spilling children and fragments of AT-AT (or vice-versa).

    Red Lawyer to Gold Earner, I’m in position!

  23. The Internet counts as ” things we made ”

    Just because we can’t get in our station wagon and take a road trip to visit the Internet doesn’t mean it is not a massive monument to engineering know how

  24. “Now I have an idea, but no money and a total lack of mechanical aptitude.”

    The idea is 1%. So he might want to pick up some aptitude and money if he wants to get going on the other 99%.

  25. If we’re gonna dream, why F-around? Death star. Play a little Led Zepplin, a bit of a laser show, bob’s your uncle, problems solved. Gawdblessmerika.

  26. Mike here. This whole thing is my “delightfully hair-brained” idea.
    Sorry I don’t have enough mechanical skill for some folks, but the whole point is for the AT-AT to be a monument to geek culture and the togetherness that it sparks. We’ve had a lot of really smart people contact us to help figure out the nuts and bolts. Given some fundraising, I think this will actually happen. Whether its at Burning Man, the Bay Area or in Oklahoma City, it’s going to be a testament to having fun and coming together. Maybe it’s a little Frank Capra of me, but I think that will be good for the country. And, BTW, being mentioned on BoingBoing is tremendous. Thanks Cory!

  27. Someone needs to organise the Brits. With us being a little smaller in landmass I say we go for an AT-ST! And I prefer them anyway, better than a big metal cow!

  28. Pyramids for Minnesota.

    An amusing yet semi-serious call to action by the late great Thomas Disch.

    Pyramids inspire people by their very existence: their useless magnificence moves us to accomplish great things.

  29. We should try making rice-cookers, shittier furniture, and nontoxic milk products.

    “Free” trade with the 3rd world means even your own kids will be marginalized in a “race to the bottom” for workers rights.

    Freedom is an illusion for the ignorant,

  30. Interesting idea, though I’m not sure an AT-AT did too well in Star Wars and am not sure it will do much better in real life – plus the heavy steel parts will likely come from China, much of the Electronics from the Pacific Rim Asian countries (and there may be a bit of a backlog if from Japan) and it’s likely union rules, concessions and such will cause the final price to be way beyond what even the government will be willing to pay.

    Still, don’t let all that dissuade you – GO FOR IT!

  31. Damn! I KNEW it was the hipsters holding America back.

    Let’s build that AT-AT just to show ’em!

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