KnowledgeCornerstone » Ramblings from an educator and life-long learner

Pinball Machine Construction

Measurements are coming…

For those interested in how I constructed the pinball machines in my science class, this *will attempt* to explain how I made them.  I spend a lot of time messing around building things in my garage, and I often don’t use exact measurements.  This is what I “threw together” for these machines.   There are some great links I found listed at the end that I looked at as I was constructing these.  Starting with the final product:

This is actually smaller (and much more manageable) than the original ones I constructed for the students.  If I had to do it again, they would all be this size.  But feel free to adjust the size accordingly to fit your needs!

The first part was the four walls of the base.  These do not have to be cut on an angle, but I wanted this to look as close as possible to a real pinball machine.  I had my students research the angle of the machine.  There is some variance, so we decided on an angle of 7 degrees.  I have a miter saw that I was able to set on this angle, but the first time I did this by hand with a protractor.  (Side note: the miter I have is a 12 in…NOT slide…so I cut 1 side then flipped it and cut the other.  I should have just drawn it out and cut it with a hand held circle saw.)

These are the 4 sides and the support pieces for the top.

I am a huge fan of wood glue! Glued and screwed to the based walls.  I measured 1.5″ from the top to attach the support pieces.

I used 1.5″ screws to attach the 4 sides.  I did not glue them so they can be taken apart and stored flat.

The top is a piece of peg board.  Measure and cut AFTER you have assembled the base to make sure it fits.

For the flippers, I used a band saw to cut out the pieces.  My students did dome research and told me that they did find a place to buy flippers already made.  Next time…

I drilled holes in each flipper and attached a 2″ dowel with glue.  *Notice how everything is labeled right and left.  I was doing this as I went along but it helped when I disassembled the machine for transport, I was able to put it back together correctly!

This next part is for the flipper arm.  I laid everything out before gluing everything down.  I marked where the dowel for the flipper arm would go through and then was able to drill a hole from that.

This part is a little hard to explain.  This is what the flipper arm will PUSH to move the flipper.  It needed to have a hole to fit the dowel from the flipper.

A hole was drilled to fit in the dowel from the flipper.

Here is the whole flipper mechanism before being glued.  The flipper (with the dowel that is glued in) is coming up through the small wooden part.

Drill the hole for the flipper arm.

Start gluing.  The flipper arm needs something to stop it so I used some picture hangers that I found in a drawer.  My thought was that I could attach a screw to the flipper arm and it would stop at a certain point.  A picture explains this a bit further down.

Again, I wanted to be able to take this apart and remove the flippers (because I wanted the students to make their own flippers at some point).  I marked where the flippers should be positioned on the board with the holder on the underside.

I grilled a small hole to fit a screw to hold this together.  I had to carefully hold the flipper in the position it needed to be on the board.

I put it back on the board and put the screws in to secure the flippers.

These are the ends of the flipper arms.  I used some balls that I found at a craft store and drilled a hole to glue in a dowel.  Drilling into a ball is not as easy as it looks.  I found this clamp (that I have never used in my life) to hold the balls.

The last part of the machine was the launcher.  I came up with this after wandering around Home Depot for a while.  I used a long bolt and glued a chair end cap to the end of the bolt (using some super duty super glue).  I used simple wooden drawer knobs and found the round metal inserts that would allow me to screw the launcher bolt into place.

The last part was to glue the guide in place on the face of the pinball machine.  I cut a piece of plexiglass to hold the launcher down.  I could not find a spring that was 1) cheap enough for all of the students to have one and 2) that was strong enough.  One of my students used a spiral from a notebook and it worked perfectly!  We did have the conversation about the thickness of the metal spiral and the ability to launch.  Some springs work better than others.  (metal vs plastic and thickness)



Genius Hour Wrap-up

I have not posted as much as I would like, but that will come…

We wraped-up our first semester of working on passion projects during “Genius Hour.” It is hard to know the direction you want to go until after you have experience with it. I have a MUCH better idea where I want to go now!

Even though we spent almost 18 weeks working on passion projects, I still had a few angels that struggled with the whole concept. Even at the very end, the day before presenting their projects, they were telling me they did not know what to do. :\

To recap the idea of what genius hour was (I did the same with the students):

  • This was a time to explore a new concept, or ask questions about something they were unsure of. (***In reality, some students REALLY struggled with this.)
  • The projects they started might not be finished, and for me, that was okay since this was our first time doing this.
  • There was no right or wrong way to do something, they just had to be working on something.
  • As they presented, they were supposed to tell us how to replicate what they had done, but rather their struggles and successes with their projects.

Most presentations ended up telling us (in GREAT detail) how to do something. I kept having to steer them back to how they felt about their projects.

Next semester we are focusing on science fair projects. They will be PASSIONATE about them!

How I WISH I would have introduced Genius Hour

We are now 4 weeks into Genius Hour and it dawned on me how I wish I would have introduced it to the students.

Let me back up a bit…The second week we talked about ideas for their own passion projects. It was a whole class discussion because I knew there would be some that had no clue how to get started. Many of them did share individual projects that they wanted to work. But them more we talked the more would say…”Oh I like that idea! Can we work in a group?”

Four weeks later most of the students have changed from their original idea and are working in a group on a project. This is not where I wanted it to go.

What I am seeing (and I did now from the start), it is easy to play school, it is hard to think outside the box.

There are a handful of great projects! And then there are the rest…

I made the mistake of telling them I would let them change (after they asked) but only until mid September. Then they have to stick with what they have started on. I have one who has changed at least 4 times each time they enter my room.

What I should have done is narrowed down their topic. I should have made the first semester strictly science topics/challenges. They could chose what they want to tow work on, but that limits the subject area and it is not so scary to come up with something totally on their own.

I am going to give this some thought and might even surprise them next week with a new plan of action on their passion projects.

(After listening to the ideas students had for their projects, I decided to download MineCraft for one of my projects for my own personal class.)

Genius Hour Introduction

Today I introduced Genius Hour.  I was so excited I could hardly sleep knowing that I was going to come in and tell my students they could work on anything they wanted to on Fridays!  Seriously, before the first class, my heart was racing like the first day of school!  (I am a little nerdy like that…or passionate about teaching like that.)

I started them off with a little pep talk from #iamkidpresident.  I just love his personality!

I told the students our new motto is
“What are you going to make the world AWESOME?!?!?!”

Then I shared this video that I made to give the instructions.

{{{Insert blank stares}}}

I told them that I wanted them to come up with a passion project. We discussed the companies like 3M and Google that allow their workers time to develop their own things. When I asked the students why they think those companies did that, a few angels suggested it had to do with making more money off of someone else’s ideas. smart-aleck

So I then asked if there was anything that any of them had ever wanted to or learn before but they haven’t. (Of course I am talking to students who have been on this plant for a mere 11 years…how would they know what is out there???)

{{{more blank stares}}}

At this point I told them that I had always wanted to write a book. When I was in middle school I had started writing one in a spiral. I even filled the entire spiral up! And wouldn’t you know it, J.K. Rowling beat me to my book! (In all seriousness, I could have written the Harry Potter series. That is totally my imagination.)

We watched this video to piggy back off of the idea that someone else always takes your good ideas.

But these 2 videos seemed to get the most attention. The students LOVED them. (*Many of them told me they watched the videos again or with siblings because they thought they were so cool. Especially Tom Thum, several of my students now make these strange noises throughout the day.)

After going through all of that, I told the students to think about something they would like to learn about. They needed to find a passion to work on during genius hour. I was not quite as excited as when they walked in the door. We will see how next week goes.

Starting School

I cannot even begin to express how much better I feel this year starting school.  Instead of having 2 days in between leaving my previous job, and taking on being the only middle and upper school science teacher at a small private school, I actually had an entire summer to plan what I wanted to do this year!  (Well, minus the few weeks that I decided to gut and redo my girls bathroom so they each have their own sink instead of sharing one…but that is a story for another day.)

The first day was great as we jumped right into school.  I always found it boring that every teacher always went over the same expectations for every single class, so I skip that part. Being at a small school, I only get one new class every year, the other students stay the same until they leave.  Good for me because I know their personalities and what they need to help them learn…might be bad for them if they don’t like me. 😛

I am looking forward to sharing our adventures as we try something new this year–genius hour!  More to come later!

*Like the cover page for my lesson plans? Download it for free HERE.