Interactive Object — Pinball Machine

December 15th 2019

Project Description

My project for the final Interactive Object for Object Fall 2019 was a working pinball machine. This machine is a repeatable game that involves the user pushing buttons to keep a ball from falling through a pair of flippers that the user controls. This is a bare bones version of a pinball machine you may see in an arcade but it is just as functional and a blast to put together and build. I worked on this project with Harrison Bolin.

Interaction of the Pinball Machine


The enclosure of the pinball machine was constructed using wood and acrylic. Instead of laser cutting the various parts of this enclosure, we went with a more simple method of building the enclosure. The notable parts of the enlcosure are the stands used to prop up the game board and the creative ways we concealed the multiple parts of the project.


The main feature of the electronics of this project are the Force Sensitive Resistors(FSR) in the game board. The purpose of these is to record changes in the environment in order to know when the ball passes over to increment the score. The score itself is displayed by a LED serial display . For the electronics there was also a short LED neopixel strip at the bottom to illuminate progress and color to the pinball game.

Originally we were going to use capacitive touch sensors for the score so it woul dbe a more creative way of having the sensors. This ultimately didnt work because the pinball we were using didn’t have a charge so we were unable to implement this. The FSR sensors are connected to the circuit by way of screw terminal and they record the change in force when a ball rolls over them. We originally had 3 of these sensors but the smaller they get, the more problems they cause. for the little sensors it takes a lot for them to record the ball passing over them due to the nature of what they measure. They measure change in force but when the ball rolls over fast, it ay not be recorded. This ultimately didn’t cause too many problems but the interaction although repeatable could have some improvents. It is a repeatable interaction that allows the user to strive to get a better score of the game.

The LED Serial display is a SparkFun 7-Segment Serial Display. There are multiple ways to have this device work, but the simplest is to work with the Serial output of an Arduino program. The code was simple and there were only 3 parts of the Serial display that needed to be soldered. The final part of the electronics to highlight is the arcade button that is connected to the rest pin on the Arduino. This allows the program to rest once the button is triggered.

Electronics in Progress

Final Enclosure Electronics

Sparkfun LED Serial Display Documentation:

Non-Arduino Electronics

The other electronics, the flippers, and arcade buttons that controlled the flippers are not operated through the arduino. The main feature in the flippers were the car motors that would cause the flippers to move so fast and with force. These motors powering the flippers are dc motors with gears and operate with their own power and control logic. The flippers were 3d-printed and are connected through the bottom of the board and rotate on bearings.

3d printing for the flippers

3d printing of the flippers

Enclosure Progression

Final Object

Project Demo



Link to Harrison’s Blog Documentation

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