Lab Notes: Maker Faire Physical Pong

The MakerBar will (hopefully!) be exhibiting at the 2012 NYC Maker Faire on September 29-30th, a weekend-long celebration of creativity, hackermanship, and other awesome stuff we stand for. We’re proud to unveil our work-in-progress, Physical Pong!

Physical Pong is the classic Pong arcade game, turned into a tangible, touchable real-life gaming table. A real pinball careens across the table, bouncing off walls and wooden paddles. The physics and gameplay are the same as the arcade pioneer, but it’s all in high-low-tech goodness. You even drop the ball into play manually, just like Foosball!

Under the table, a heavy-duty gantry, similar to one on a pen plotter, uses a high-powered electromagnet to drag the steel pinball across the table to mimic Pong’s impossible physics. The players’ control spinners seem to be mechanically linked to the paddle, but it’s actually drive-by-wire with stepper motors. A big LED scoreboard shows the points, and an Arduino Mega controls everything behind the scenes.

What makes our XY gantry different from the one used in a CNC router? It has to move REALLY, REALLY FAST. Like a peak acceleration of 3000m/s^2 to simulate the ricochet at actual Pong speed. Instead of precise but plodding steppers, this rig uses the same 4A motors and high-powered MOSFET controllers used in FIRST robotics and BattleBots.

A complete parts list and notes can be found on right here!

This project will take Eric, Mike, and I the entire month to finish and cost about $750. If you’d like to get involved, get in touch by leaving a comment or posting on the MakerBar Google Group. We’re looking for mechanical types to help with the gantry, woodworker dudes to build and paint the enclosure, and of course, donors.

Look forward to weekly updates on the progress of this bad boy!