Teacher’s love for Star Wars sparks diverse hobbies

Aybika Kamil | The Chronicle

Piece by piece, Mason High School (MHS) Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics teacher, Steve Mays, has built his interest in the franchise ‘Star Wars’ into his life.

Mays has had an interest in Star Wars since he was a child and has always received Star Wars toys for birthdays and holidays. His love for the franchise eventually evolved into a passion for collecting toys, something that was inspired by his father’s hobby of collecting baseball cards.

Now as an adult, Mays owns thousands of Star Wars toys and is still expanding his collection. Taking this hobby further, Mays started photographing his toys and created an Instagram account for these pictures after finding other toy collection photography accounts on Instagram. 

Mays carefully hand-crafts sets and creates dioramas from foam and 3D-printed material for the background of these photoshoots. After taking the pictures, he processes them through Photoshop. 

“It really brings a lot of my hobbies all into one spot,” Mays said. “The picture-taking part was always something that I enjoyed doing, [but] I also love the Photoshop stuff, and I like to make things.”

Mays was welcomed into a community of other toy photography accounts on Instagram. He is in two groups of toy collectors, where they work together to take similar pictures to post and encourage each other’s work.

“It’s a very friendly and welcoming community,” Mays said. “Even though most of us have never met each other, we encourage each other when somebody new comes into the community and they’re just starting out.”

Mays has gained a following of over two thousand on Instagram and over ten thousand on YouTube. On YouTube, Mays uploads videos of his passion projects, including the three different remote-controlled R2-D2s he has built. Mays was determined to build his own R2-D2 after attending a Star Wars convention in 2008 and hearing a panel of R2-D2 builders talk about the process of constructing one.

“I listened to the talk and I was like I can do that,” Mays said. “I didn’t think that I could do it up till then. “[But] who wouldn’t want to have a life-size real R2-D2 in your house?”

Throughout the building process, Mays would run into different issues, such as fallen parts or short-circuiting circuit boards. However, he has worked through these challenges, acknowledging that it is all part of the process.

“When you take on something new, it can be very intimidating,” Mays said. “I had no idea how to build a Droid and the one thing that made me hesitant the most was the electronic side of it. Did I have some trouble along the way? I sure did, but at the same time, you learn a lot as well. Problem-solving is a part of learning.”

The first R2-D2 Mays built was made entirely of plastic and took eight months to complete.  Another one he built was a pink and purple R2D2 called QT-KT, named after his daughter. The third, made of aluminum, was much more complicated and took five years. After completing his aluminum R2-D2, Mays brought it to display at a convention in Chicago and has since been invited to iSpace, another robotics event.

Through his passion for Star Wars, Mays was able to explore an abundance of other hobbies. He said that his hobbies within Star Wars are part of what helps him through hard times.

“It helps me because when we have hobbies, it’s an escape from the troubles of this world,” Mays said.