The force is with us.
Or it will be Saturday when "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination," warps into San Jose's Tech Museum. The highly interactive 10,000-square-foot touring exhibit -- a collaboration between the Lucas Museum, MIT and the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute -- has already drawn almost 3 million visitors on its cross-country mission to amaze fanboys of all ages while turning kids on to the wonders of math and science.
The museum offered a sneak peek Tuesday which revealed some of the franchise's most iconic images, from a life-size replica of the Millennium Falcon cockpit and a Boba Fett blaster to a Chewbacca costume and a zippy R2-D2 robot.
It's the final leg for the $5 million pop culture extravaganza, which launched in Boston in 2005 and has toured ever since, bringing the George Lucas mythos home to the Bay Area where it all began.
"This is the big finish for us," said exhibit archivist Laela French, flanked by a battalion of stormtroopers at Tuesday's preview. "It's been a huge success everywhere it's gone, but what we're most excited about is bringing the show back home."
The point is for museumgoers to journey into a galaxy far, far away while learning about the future of technology.
"The imagination is one of the most powerful tools there is," says Tech President Tim Ritchie. "The goal is to discover the innovator in you."
Populism meets science in a gallery bursting with 80 artifacts from Tatooine (that's Luke Skywalker's home planet for the uninitiated) to Hoth (a formidable ice world) as well as high-tech gizmos such as prosthetic limbs and a hands-on hovercraft. In doing so the exhibit demonstrates the engineering behind robots, for example, and the physics of space travel.
"We wanted to be engaging but also academic," French said. "The mission is to teach children in a fun way so that they don't know they are learning about science and technology and mathematics."
Some tykes have already been turned on to science by the magic of "Star Wars."
"My husband got his Ph.D. in physics because of 'Star Wars,' " said Joan Belcinski, a 57-year-old San Jose woman, as she gently brandished a glowing green lightsaber. "He saw the movies as a boy and it inspired the rest of his life."
Among the exhibit's cache of memorabilia: a naked C-3PO (oh, dear!) a war chest full of lightsabers, countless droids, more than one Wookiee and a wampa (a carnivorous ice creature) with a bloody chunk of meat. Bottom line: If you know your Darth Vader from your Darth Maul and have always yearned to take a whirl in the Millennium Falcon (it's an extra$5 for a 5-minute ride), this qualifies as geek ecstasy. As the buzz builds for the new J.J. Abrams' "Star Wars" reboot, (slated for spring 2015), museum officials suspect it will even outsell the "Star Trek" show that visited there in 2009.
"Everywhere we go we watch buttoned-up businessmen turn into 8-year-olds in minutes. That's how devoted people are to the world George created," French said. "In the valley, that's even more intense because a very high percentage of tech executives are big fans."
For Dale Tolosa, a member of the Rebel Legion fan club which was invited to the event, the "Star Wars" show is a fantasy come to life.
"This isn't a hobby, this is a lifestyle," said the 39-year-old Daly City man dressed as a X-wing fighter pilot, "Having this exhibit make its last stop in my own backyard is amazing. I plan to come back many times."
Mark Berschens, a 40-something clad as an evil Imperial Officer, brought his 8-year-old daughter, Megan, in hopes of exposing her to the wizardry of science.
"Girls sometimes face roadblocks when it comes to science," said the Dublin fanboy, a member of the 501st Legion fan club. "Experiences like this teach them that anything is possible."
For the record, Megan seemed to prefer the princesses to the physics. Bedecked in the hooded cape of the Jawa, a rodent-like native of Tatooine, she said of the exhibit: "It's really fun and Padmé is pretty."
For Berschens, sharing his lifelong passion with his daughter is almost as fulfilling as building a fully functional droid that beeps on command, a project that cost him more than $5,000 and several years of elbow grease.
"At this point, my children have to like 'Star Wars,' " he said. "They have no choice."
When: Oct. 19-Feb. 23
Where: Tech Museum of Innovation, 201 South Market St, San Jose.
Tickets: $9-$27; 408-294-8324; www.thetech.org
Online: Scan this code with your smartphone or go to www.mercurynews.com/entertainment to see a slideshow of photos from the "Star Wars" exhibit.