AFJH STEM Club's Cardboard Arcade (2018)
Made from recycled poster boards and a raspberry pi computer, the students designed, programed, tested, and assembled the entire arcade system for under $100 (the electronics and cardboard rivets were the only parts we had to buy). It's extremely light but stable as they engineered the inside of the arcade box in a type of honeycomb and lattice structure to strengthen it. See below for more details.
The STEM Club was designed to explore various topics through a series of small projects during 3 phases. The students Then spent the last phase designing games for the end of the year Cardboard Arcade that was showcased in a local high school carnival. They only met once a week for a half hour and were limited in the depth and scope of knowledge explored and unfortunately were unable to finish all of them. The students had designed pinball machines, claw machines, hockey machines, the above raspberry pi arcade, and a few other entirely unique arcade games. Below is the series of projects they worked on building their knowledge base, developing their building capacity, and creativity. They had to pull ideas from at least two of these projects in their final arcade game. This is the order in which the mini projects were completed based on complexity and building skills and mindsets along the way with easier projects at the beginning.
Phase 1: Recording
The primary focus of the first phase was to learn to record absolutely everything. The projects were then formulated to help build basic knowledge and develop basic design skills (such as recording ideas and research, measuring and sketching to scale, etc.) and skills with managing time and group work (how to communicate effectively in groups, handling disagreements, and project management software like basecamp and creating checklists, etc.).
Phase 2: Developing
The second phase was designed to explore the importance of iterations and continuous research. Reflection was a crucial aspect in this phase. The projects were more complex, often with not a single right answer. Students had to continually create, reflect, change, create, reflect, change.
Students studied and reverse engineered a cardboard hydraulic arm that I built from the video above. They then had to design some type of useful mechanism using the same principles and build it with cardboard, syringes, and tubing.
5. Raspberry Pi
The students were given a series of challenges to program in regards to the video game console we would build. The challenges were all things I didn't know how to do but we needed to make the arcade function properly. For example, raspberry pis don't have power buttons, so that was one of the challenges. Figure out the coding and hardware to create a functional power button. This was just one among dozens. The students did not however program the entire gaming system but had a base program, so they could just focus on small pieces.
6. Rapid Prototyping
The students were given a series of challenges to learn to make accurate representations of ideas that were to scale in a variety of materials (plastics, cardboard, popsicle sticks, paper, even app prototyping software that required no coding, magnets, wiring, circuits, etc.). Google's 3-part series on rapid prototyping for apps is phenomenal.
Phase 3: Synthesizing
After completing the above projects, students began the engineering design cycle. They had a purpose (cardboard arcade), they had a knowledge base (from lenses to hydraulics), and now they had to synthesize everything to create their final product. They began by brainstorming ideas, then created rapid prototypes, and onto the final projects seen above.