Pinball Designer

     

Students design and build non-electronic pinball games.

Core concepts include gravity, potential and kinetic energy, inclined planes, and probability.

Malarkey and the Big Trap introduces students to the design process as a lazy cat attempts to catch a mouse.

Lesson Plan Overview: Suggested 8 lessons over 9 days

Lesson - 1 Pinball Wizards
Students begin to explore the basic building blocks of a homemade pinball machine: a launch ramp, a pinball, and an inclined playing field. In an unstructured environment, students explore these elements to see what happens when they are combined.

 

Lesson - 2 Launch Ramps
In this activity, students change variables of the launch ramp to see how they affect the behavior of the ball. They make careful observations about the path the ball travels and try to compare how the ball travels when it is launched from different ramp configurations.

 

Lesson - 3 Playing Pinball
In this activity, students explore toy pinball games to see how they function. They observe the numbers and types of targets on the playfield and play the games to see how hard it is to hit certain targets.

 

Lesson - 4 Walls Get In My Way
Students place a wall on their playfield and note how they need to adapt their launches to avoid the wall. They explore how the wall affects the places that the pinball can travel and determine if there are areas on the playfield that are difficult or impossible to reach.

 

Lesson - 5 Trying Targets
In this activity, students begin to lay out their own pinball playfields. They try to determine where the targets should be placed on their observations about where the pinball can be easily targeted and where the more difficult areas to hit are. As students conduct their investigations, they refer back to their science notebooks.

 

Lesson - 6 Scoring Points
In this activity, students continue to lay out their own pinball playfields. They try to determine where additional targets should be placed based on their observations about where the pinball can be easily targeted and where the more difficult areas to hit are. They will assign scores to targets based on how hard or easy they are to hit.

 

Lesson - 7 Banging Bumpers
In this activity, students add bumpers to their playfields. They consider how adding the bumpers change the way the pinball rolls on the playfield.

 

Lesson - 8 Build Your Own!
In this activity, students use the knowledge they’ve gained over the course of the challenge to finish designing their pinball game to meet the criteria set out by EarthToy Designs. In teams, students test and optimize their game. They present the games to the rest of the class and discuss why they built them the way they did.

 

Kit Materials

This kit provides materials for class size of 24 students working in teams of four to six.
 

Items

Quantity

Pinball Playfield

6

Launch Ramps and Supports

6

Wood Walls

6

Marbles

40

Targets

40

Shaker Pegs

48

Removable Adhesive Putty 

1

Toy Pinball Game

3

Rubber Bands

6

Post-It Notes

6

Children's Book: Malarkey and the Big Trap

1

Downloadable Curriculum and Supporting Files

1

 

Resources

Sample Lesson Plan

Tradebooks to Introduce STEM

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