Former Navy Engineer Makes Working Replica of Rosie the Robot from “The Jetsons” to Clean His House (Exclusive)

Zollna tells PEOPLE how he started sharing his impressive builds with a community on TikTok

<p>Warner Bros; ziggy_nonskid/Tiktok</p> Rosie the Robot build (L), Rosie the Robot in "The Jetsons" (R)

Warner Bros; ziggy_nonskid/Tiktok

Rosie the Robot build (L), Rosie the Robot in "The Jetsons" (R)
  • Robert Zollna has put his background as a Navy engineman into use in a way that brings delight to others

  • Zollna recently finished up his third robot build

  • Zollna tells PEOPLE that the fun hobby helps him share his love of beloved characters with others while employing skills he doesn't get to use otherwise

Robert Zollna has always had a passion for putting things together.

Zollna, the robotics engineer behind @ziggy_nonskid on TikTok, tells PEOPLE that his builds started as a fun hobby that would keep skills he doesn't always use sharp.

"I studied mechanical engineering in college and later became an engineman while in the navy, but life after the navy saw me in a career that had nothing to do with engineering. So, I started tinkering on my own, mostly vehicles and model aircraft. Then, I got pretty deep into 3D printing," he tells PEOPLE.

WALL-E, the first robot he documented creating on TikTok, started out as a gift for his grandson's birthday.

"My son said he was really into the movie WALL-E and wanted his own WALL-E robot," he shares. "I started building him a one-quarter scale fully articulated wall-e robot and posting the progress on TikTok. When it was completed, the birthday reveal video went viral as I had the robot drive out of the box as a surprise gift."

From there, he went bigger, building himself the same but at "three-quarters scale with many more functions to take to comic cons and other events and for my own enjoyment."

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The bigger version of WALL-E took 7 months for the engineer to build. After that, he built Mo, "a natural evolution of being from the same movie."

He initially thought to build it from scratch when he had an "aha moment" while at home one day.

"I watched my robot vacuum bouncing around the room and realized it had all the autonomy I needed already built in, so I basically tore apart a perfectly functional robot vacuum," he says with a laugh. "After a two-month build, the Mo robot was completed. Fittingly, Mo, being the cleaner bot in the movie and being based on the robot vacuum platform, was not lost on me."

That connection led Zollna to his latest project — a working replica of Rosie the Robot from the iconic animated series, The Jetsons.

"I may be giving away my age, but I grew up watching The Jetsons, and after Mo, I was eyeing my new replacement robot vacuum and thought it would be great to have a Rosie that actually did housework, and that was the spark of the Rosie build," he shares.

This time, he managed it without "destroying" his new robot vacuum.

"I left the vacuum intact but had built a handle attachment so the vacuum could pull the Rosie the Robot around as it cleaned. After about 4 months, I had her mostly completed."

Rosie has presented unique challenges to Zollna and led him to "do some deep thinking on how to solve some difficult engineering problems, like how to power and steer an office chair base, and I totally love everything about that," he says.

Zollna has also enjoyed finding ways to reuse pieces from different projects in bringing Rosie to life, which has allowed him to "use things that had another purpose and would probably be thrown away as junk and incorporate them into my own creation."

"Rosie has the most repurposed parts of all my other robots. The speakers and body covering are from an old flat-screen TV. The audio amplifier is from an old transistor radio. The drive wheel motors are from a vehicle's auto back door opener, and the lower body is an old construction insulation foam board."

What's also brought Zollna a lot of joy is sharing the process on TikTok, where he's built a community that lends "tons of support ideas, suggestions, tips and even where to source difficult parts."

"Of course, there is negativity every once in a while, but to be a creator on TikTok, you must have thick skin and let things roll off your back," he acknowledges. "I also have made great friends on TikTok and even met quite a few creators and TikTokers in real life. They have been very supportive of what I do and keep my energy up to keep posting videos."

While he doesn't consider himself a "professional creator," Zollna enjoys "sharing my passions and building and creating new things."

Zollna also uses the robots to give back, taking them to "events in the Pacific Northwest, starting with the Northwest Comicon Circuit."

"I work with the navy's M.W.R. to help entertain sailors and their families who are often far away from home, especially around the holidays, as well as patients at Seattle Children's Hospital," he says. "I'm currently checking into the Bainbridge island 'loft' STEM program to teach basic robotics to students."

He's excited to debut Rosie this year, sharing, "Judging by TikTok's reaction, I'm sure she'll be a hit."

As for what's next, Zollna says, "I usually build over the fall through early winter often against a deadline for Emerald City Comicon. The next robot I build will be either K9 from Dr. Who or the scutter 'Bob' from Red Dwarf."

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