DIY STEAM Pinball Machine
Pinball machines are a wonderful way for kids to learn about engineering while also making themselves a fun game! Our STEAM Paint Exploration Kit is the perfect springboard for kids to become mini makers. With the help of a few household supplies, kids can design and build their own functioning pinball machine. Check out our tutorial below!
- Kid Made Modern STEAM Paint Exploration Kit
- A recycled cardboard box plus extra cardboard for building
- Scissors and/or craft knife
- Small wooden cylinders, such as a skewer or chopstick
- Craft stick
- Small round beads (we used a few from our Rainbow Craft Kit) or marbles
- Hot glue gun
Step 1 - Design Your Pinball Machine
Start with a few classic pinball mechanisms and then design whatever you’d like from there! Here we use the kit’s clothespin to create a starter spring. We are also building functioning flippers out of cardboard. Try incorporating those into your design and then dream up whatever variety of obstacles you’d like. Sketch your design out on a piece of paper to use in the build.
Step 2 - Build a Base and Cut Out Cardboard Pieces
Create the base by cutting the flaps off a box top -- save them! Then cut two slanted sides into the long sides of your cardboard box. You want the parallel slants to be even. Cut the bottom width of the box to be even with the bottom of the slant. The goal is to create a tilted playing surface.
Flip the box over. If the bottom has a seam, glue a larger piece of cardboard to create a seamless bottom. Then glue strips of cardboard about 2” high to each side of the box -- you can cut these from the box top flaps. Now you’ve got your base.
Cut out any other cardboard pieces you’ll need for your design.
Step 3 - Assemble Flippers and Spring
Cut a small gap on each side toward the bottom for your flippers. Cut two small pieces of your skewers and tape them in the middle of each gap. Cut two cardboard strips across the grain (so the small holes show horizontally) so that together, they span slightly wider than your pinball base.
Slide each strip onto the skewers, leaving a small gap between the two large enough for a marble to fit -- the wider the gap, the harder the obstacle! Cut a small hole near the bottom of your base for the marble to “drop through” if it gets past your flippers.
To make the starting spring, glue a craft stick to one of the kit’s clothespins. You’ll want part of the craft stick extending beyond the end of the clothespin.
Glue this to the base of your machine, slightly above the flippers and with the hinge facing to the right. Then glue two strips of cardboard above it, stretching upwards to create a chute for your marble. To start your game, you’ll place a marble on top of the craft stick. Then press down on the craft stick and when it springs back up, it will push the marble along the chute.
Step 4 - Build the Rest of Your Pinball Machine
Now that you’ve got the basics down, add whatever other obstacles you’d like. Try placing small pieces of skewers into patterns and adding a rubber band around them to create springing obstacles. Cut out small pieces of cardboard or bits from the kit and glue them on as well.
Step 5 - Decorate!
We gotta get that art in there! Use the kit’s paints and crayons to create a colorful playing field for your pinball machine. Add points to various obstacles. Give your game a name and add it to the top!
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