That is the 11-year-old me. Maybe 2-3 weeks before the school exposition.
Sadly, the pinball machine does not work anymore. The flippers are hardwired; they are the only things that work.
Yes, the 11-year-old me wired and designed all of that. Over 500 feet of wire.
This page is a redo of the page that has been on the internet from 2014-2018.
For those of you who had seen this when I was younger, I have added in more technical descriptions of what is going on, my ideas at the time, to the best of my memory, and spelling corrections.
This page has been restyled, and has had many changes made. The original publication was in 2014. This was before I had my own workroom. I did all the hacking/soldering in the downstairs bathroom.
If you want to view the old, unmodified, page, it is here. Beware: There are many dead links, as it is just a standalone page.
I did learn to solder to do this project. My soldering skills didn't drastically improve until I built the LED cube. Unfortunately, due to the amount of unsoldered wires in the machine, the machine did not last long after my school's expo. I have since tried many times to get it up and running again. I'm not sure if all the arduinos were somehow erased.
On the bright side, there are plans to scrap the old one, and build two machines in its place. My Dad will build one, I will build one. We will have a third party play them, without knowing who did which machine. The best machine wins. I plan on winning with more than 50 multi-ball modes.
The machines will be built whithout us helping each other. My Dad may not have many bells or whistles in his electronics, but he could design some driver boards. My dad is an awesome artist, and he can design artwork better than anybody I know. There is no doubt he will trounce me in the art department.
I, on the other hand, could easily design kick-butt boards, with all the bells and whistles, but I will be super lucky if I can achieve artwork better than a 1960's EM. That alone could make me lose the competition. I will have to focus on depth to my gameplay. This will be a tough competition.
I am not exaggerating when I say that basically everything I learned about electronics came from this project. Let me think:
This project basically smacked everyone in the face. Since I showed it off at the expo as an 11-year old, I have never seen so many adults absolutely speechless about what anyone has done. There was not one adult who's jaw did not drop that night.
And, quite arguably, nothing I have done has come close since. I am going to make one last push to top it. For my big school project this year, I will attempt to build a 5 - 6 foot tall humanoid robot.
The pinball machine is technically not finished. It lacks playfield art, and the "Walk with God" ramp. We just couldn't figure out how to do the acryllic to make the ramp in time.
My machine's theme was The Garden of Eden. (Inside joke. My school calls it the "Eden Exposition", because our God is a Creator, and therefore we need to make things, too. That's how we came to the Garden of Eden theme.)
The original project deadline was May 8th, 2015.
These metal pieces go on the outside of the cabinet. They hold the legs in place. We used aluminum extrusions, that my Dad had bought for... something else. I forget what. (We had already built the basic cabinet, the playfield is 2 feet by 4 feet.)
The next step, is to mark where those holes line up on the cabinet, and drill them. Bolts slide through, and then the extrusions will slide in after that. It makes inserting and removing the legs very difficult.
After finishing up the cabinet, there was about 2 months of inactivity on the project. Then things really started to become real.
We were walking through the "local" surplus store, and saw some metal power plug inserts. We thought: "Why not?"
'Kinda funny when I think how the machine has a total of 5 plugs & wall - warts hanging out of it for operation. We weren't ready to have me work with line voltage just yet.
And when they were mounted in:
These are all the flipper mechs we got. Due to inadequate packaging, the edges of the coils were broken off, and we had to get replacements. That delayed us by quite a bit.
After that whole fiasco, we got the flippers mounted in. We looked at the manuals and apron areas for other games to help figure out the return lanes. You can see some of them on the playfield.
I put in the buttons and switches. We were using the driver board to handle the coils. We couldn't figure out why it wouldn't work. Thinking back: Maybe a lack pulldown resistors?
I think these pictures were out of order... I know we had tested the flippers before putting in the out lanes.
The plunger took forever to figure out. It has a wierd shape on the back. This was the cost of using a metal plunger, not a nylon plunger.
It also had this annoying tendency to hit the switch. Oh, well. Too late to change it now.
Start with the simple things. It helps you stick with the project. The launchlane retaining walls were good things to work on.
Ahh... What's my Dad's favorite phrase... "Silly gets us hurt." No, but it is one of the top ones... "Always make a jig." There we go.
We made two blocks of wood to serve as spacers. They did their job well, they were just large enough for the ball to roll through.
Here we can be seen gluing in the outlanes. Just pieces of particle board. The apron would later fit perfectly over the top.
Without the weights. Still a long way to go.
I'm quite sure I finished putting this stuff and tested the flippers beforehand... maybe I'm misremembering?
From left to right: 5 volt supply, and 36 volt supply.
Looks pretty, but I need it to do stuff.
You would not believe the amount of ground points needed on this machine. There were many more of these added as time went on.
Again: I need it to actually do things. Here I am adding in an Arduino Mega 2560, a rs-485, and a Power Driver 16 board.
There are all of three Arduinos: two Megas, and an Uno. One for lights, one for game control, and the Uno for the score.
One of the arguments I'd get into with my Dad with was whether or not Arduino or Visual studio was better. I lost. :)
There wasn't much progress made for the next few months, we were just trying to figure out why the code wasn't controlling the flippers properly.
The game was always going to be set to free play. So we just needed a start button.
I wanted us to use coin mechanisms, but my Dad wasn't willing to pay for an unnecesary feature. Now that I am grown up, and have to make that choice all the time, I agree.
I remember seeing that Data East start button for sale on Marco Specialties. I just had to have it.
Here it is mounted in.
Like my Dad always said: "Make a template!" So that's what we always did...
We never got to apply graphics to the slingshots... We only ever put graphics on the side of the cabinet.
My Dad used his new bandsaw to make the plexiglass.
We also ended up making several trips to Ace Hardware to get the nylon spacers.
Wiring up the slingshots. Why did we leave the bar code on the bottom of the playfield?
The flippers would work about half the time. But we were making progress. I was really starting to get excited.
A night shot of the machine!
We only ever got around to doing the other stuff, like adding the pop bumpers and the "E-D-E-N" rollovers because I finally convinced my Dad that we weren't getting anywhere with trying to code the flippers, and it wouldn't be too difficult for me to change the coils, and wire up the E.O.S. switches to make it work. My Dad consented, and it worked the first time. It was very exciting.
Some of the additional wiring I had to do. I don't remember why I had an LED in pin 13...
Here I am adding the Pop Bumpers. Oh boy. It was a fun and tedious process. We went through some iterations with scrap wood to figure out the holes that needed to be drilled for them.
The pop bumper I am adding here was the bumper in the land of Haviliah, where there was good Gold.
Big points awarded of you managed to hit it. Kinda but not very difficult.
The number of wires here was about to go up exponentially...
Here I am, adding the other pop bumpers. The blue one is the river Pishon, the green ones were just trees.
We only put two rubber bands in the "E-D-E-N" area, because we had not ordered enough. We just bought a kit to re-rubber a pinball machine. I think it was for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The playfield was really coming along. You can just make out the cutout for the ball trough. It is a reproduction ball trough from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Slingshots were also from Star Trek: The Next Generation, too.
I am now working on adding the "Name The Animals" bank of 4 drop targets.
It took forever to add these drop targets. They also sometimes wouldn't reset properly. I think the coil wasn't strong enough.
Adding all those rollover switches took forever. I made so many holes, and had to reposition them many times. They also rubbed up against the sides of their holes, and that made me need to reposition them again. I was working with a gap an 1/8th inch wide. I eventually got them all, though.
Here I am, adding some more hardware to the playfield.
You can just barely see the "Creation of Eve" drop target. I think you could only hit that one once per game.
Adding the lighted inserts was a... difficult task. It took forever. We bought a whole bunch of green lights from Marco Specialties, and they looked rather nice.
The "end-of-ball bonus" lights. I think the highest bonus you could get was 7,000.
We discovered a hole in the wood on drilling the lowest insert down. We had to fill it in with Epoxy.
I am drilling pilot holes to facilitate the drilling of the holes for the "E-D-E-N" inserts.
I'm priming the cabinet a solid white. It helps the graphics look good.
Applying the graphics was difficult. I am using a paper towel to help evenly distibute force without having my hands get stuck on it. It also helped get rid of any bubbles.
We finished putting on the graphics for the body of the cabinet. We still needed to put the graphics on the marquee and apron.
I was hacking a 9 volt wall-wart. I believe it was a 850 milliamp one. I think it was used to power the arduino in the Marquee that controlled the Pinscore dislpay.
I was adding the last of the playfield pieces. They were bandsawed by my Dad.
I left the gap between those two pieces because I wanted another place for the ball to go, and be able to get the Gold bumper.
We used LED striplighting to make the backlight for the Marquee. It was one of my first solder jobs. I think it looked really good.
It works! First try!
Its not too useful out of the cabinet...
That. Looks. AWESOME!
I just need to do a little painting and a few other small things.
We used some frosted lamps that would emit green when lit.
Another skill I learned: Painting.
There was a big hole in the plywood that we discovered. We had to fill it in with Epoxy.
I added LED striplighting to help illuminate the playfield. It was way, way too bright. We ended up switching to a different set of striplighting.
So much hard work. So much stimulation to the broken American economy. So many hours lost for this project. So many burns from using an Iron.
Also: Cleaning up is not usually my specialty. You can see the screwdriver on the floor...
We had to bring the machine to school a week before the exposition. We had to use a U-Haul to bring it to school. I was excited as all-get-out.
The exposition was on May 8th, 2015.
Also: The wispy stuff is the "Breath Of God." Everything living has had the breath of God breathed into them.
All in all, I'm glad I didn't play Civilization IV or Homeworld 1 as much as I could've. My Dad had to literally tear me away from my computer on some days.
We don't have that problem anymore, as I would rather work on a project most of the time.
This page was last updated 8/7/2019