Our Space Cadet Pinball Machine is a tribute to the 2001 Windows XP pinball game. Over the past year, Covid-19 has led to the closure of numerous entertainment venues, including arcades. This pinball machine captures an element of the arcade experience that users are currently unable to participate in under pandemic regulations. The main purpose of our project is to provide entertainment and enjoyment to our users. Furthermore, we believe that the market for home entertainment will continue to grow in our current pandemic-stricken world, providing a prime opportunity to create an arcade experience for people at home.

What it does

After the user drops a pinball onto the board, they assume responsibility for the two classic arms at the bottom of the arcade board. A display screen features the gameplay score. If the pinball passes through the small space between the two arms and leaves the arcade board, then the user has lost the game, the display screen reveals the final score, and the pinball can be reset for the user to play another game.

How we built it

The board was composed of cardboard, styrofoam, and wood. There was a global indicator variable that was set when the game had begun and cleared when the game finished. When this indicator was set, a timer was initialized and the display screen would steadily increment an integer score. When this indicator was cleared, the “game over” message was displayed, as well as the final score. Analog-to-digital conversion was used to register when the user wanted to flick either of the arms upward. By changing the pulse width modulation mid-game, Servo motors were able to preform the desired task to keep the ball in play. The IR break-beam sensors detected when an object passed between the receiver and emitter sides, indicating the beginning and the end of each game.

Challenges we ran into

The success rate during the test trials was 0.7, and most of the failed tests were due to the ball being stuck on an obstacle. Since most of the tests were successful and the failed tests were not due to the Arduino's input/output devices, the team decided the board worked well after some minor adjustments to the troublesome obstacles.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

The team was happy that the pinball machine worked and was fun to play. It was especially exciting to see all of the input/output devices working harmoniously together.

What we learned

Throughout the project, concepts learned in lecture and lab were used to implement the timers, interrupts, analog-to-digital conversion, and pulse width modulation. By leveraging multiple functionalities of the Arduino within the same code, the team was able to better comprehend what each task does, how to implement the different tasks, the timing of multiple tasks running at once, and how tasks can be implemented together. Furthermore, combining the different operations of the input/output devices provided real-world experience for the computer engineering industry.

What's next for Space Cadet Pinball Machine

An unanticipated problem occurred with the arms’ range of motion at the bottom of the board. The group had to leave small openings between the arms and the other barriers to allow the rectangular blockers to swing 180 degrees. If the ball was rolling with little momentum, it could go through these two openings and end the game prematurely. There was no easy fix to this issue, but given more time, a possible improvement to the design would include making new arms slightly above the board surface. Hot glue would be placed in between each arm and its adjoining barrier. This way, the hot glue could block the ball from ending the game early while the arms still had their full range of motion. Despite this minor design flaw, the group was happy with the end result and cannot wait to play it during study breaks in the upcoming weeks.

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