I was happy to collaborate with Brightwood College to make a Plinko Board that was outfitted with some fun electrical components by their students and staff.
Making a Plinko Board was a fairly simple project that doesn’t require a lot of equipment. This board is inspired from an iconic game from The Price is Right. For my part of the collaboration, I am building the Plinko Board out of plywood and inexpensive dimensional lumber.
The board surface is the platform that the Plinko pegs will be mounted to. The size of this surface really depends on how large you want your Plinko game to be. The original game on the show stood about 10 feet tall, so scale down as appropriate or go all out and make it full size, Bob Barker would be proud.
The size of your board really depends on the size of the puck that will slide down. Our pucks were 3 1/2 inches in diameter, which meant that the gaps between the pegs had to be big enough for the puck to fit through. You just have to determine how wide you want your board to be and how many catching channels you’d like at the bottom. I cut a sheet of 3/4 inch plywood to size and glued on a thin sheet of marker board to it to help the pucks slide smoothly.
Using the peg spacing mentioned previously, we marked out the peg locations in a single row and then drew the next row down so that those pegs would fall in the center of the gaps above. By doing this, you’re assuring that the pucks can’t fall straight through any rows without hitting a peg. This becomes tricky when you near the sides of the playing surface. You have to be mindful of the puck getting stuck on a peg near the sides. To eliminate this threat, you have to ensure that there is less than half the puck diameters’ worth of gap between the wall and the last peg.
Once you’ve drawn out the locations of your pegs and left room for the catching channels at the bottom, it is time to drill the peg holes. Be careful when drilling through the marker board, it likes to tear around the holes which reveals the darker material underneath. I got the drill up to speed and then gently touched the drill bit to the surface. After drilling like a bajillion holes, I added the dowel pegs with some light persuasion with a mallet. While I finished up the pegs, Josh 3d printed some pucks that looked amazing!
For the side frame, I used 1 x 6 pine boards from the home center. To hold the playing surface, I cut in a dado along the back edge of the frame. I also intended on adding a plexiglass sheet to the front of the game, so I also cut in a small grove to hold that. The two corners were cut at 45 degree miters on the miter saw and secured them together with glue and brad nails. The frame was purposely left open at the top so there is a place to drop the pucks. I glued the playing surface into the dado on the frame and slid in the plexiglass.
To create channels for the puck to land, I cut some small walls and attached them to the bottom of the playing surface. The top edges were beveled to a point so the puck couldn’t accidentally land on top of the fences. Because I wanted the channels to be open and not covered by the plexiglass, I cut some small notches and added a strip of trim to sandwich the plexiglass in place.
Plinko Boards are placed a slight angle so the puck easily slides down the playing surface. We did some tests at different angles to find the sweet spot where the puck slid easily through the pegs while the top-heavy board remained stable. After finding this pitch with my digital angle finder, I cut some extra pieces of 1 x 6 at that angle and rounded off the other ends. These pieces would become the two legs that sit inside the back of the frame. I cut some half-lap notches in each leg to accept a horizontal stringer that would join them together. The two legs are mounted tight enough inside the frame that they stay in place when stored. To keep the legs from sliding outward, I attached a small chain that could be adjusted if the pitch needed to be changed later.
The point of this collaboration was to take this simple wooden game and make it a unique showpiece by adding some electrical components that the faculty and students at the college were using. It was a departure from my normal micro-controller setups using Arduinos. The Electrical Technician students specialized in using larger, more industrial components that I had no experience with. It was a really great learning opportunity to see how someone could get the same outcome that I would with an Arduino, by using analog timers,capacitors, and relays.
We added some microswitches to the board’s catching channels so that a set of LEDs would be activated when the puck lands on them. There was a lot of wire stripping to connect the terminals on the switches to the control boxes mounted to the back of the board. Because the micro-switches were more robust than the smaller I’m used to, we had to double up the 3d printed pucks to add mass. These heavier pucks actuated the switches better and kept the button pressed a lot better.
Great Collaboration Project
Not only was this a fun project to build, it was really awesome to see the instructors and the students get involved to make the Plinko game unique. I stepped back and took on the role of a student when we hooked up the analog components. I was very impressed with the school’s Electrical Technician lab and how professional everyone was while we finished up the game. There was a lot of problem solving, a lot of experience being shared, and a lot of group interaction. Once the electronics were completed, we got to show off the flashy Plinko Board to the rest of the school. Everyone involved was really proud to see their hard work on display and I was throughly impressed with the instructors and the students at Brightwood College.
If you are interested in making a career change or want to learn more about the professional certification programs that they offer, look up Brightwood College at www.brightwood.edu and find a campus near you.
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