Fun With Pinball

What can you learn from pinball machines?

The devices on these pages demonstrate how individual pinball machine components work.  But taken a step further they can also be used to explain some fundamental principles of science and technology.  Topics that might seem intimidating, tedious or irrelevant may for some become more compelling when explained in the context of a large, tangible and entertaining pinball machine. 

The lessons that follow are intended to give the reader a taste of, or curiosity about the underlying science and technology, to make the topics less mysterious and a little easier to understand, and to encourage those who take interest to pursue more comprehensive sources in class, at the library or online.


Online Lessons from Pinball Machines

This website include short lessons that use pinball machine parts to explain scientific principles.

Switches and electric currentSwitches and electric current Switches and electric current
Solenoids, relays and electromagnetismSolenoids, relays and electromagnetism Solenoids, relays and electromagnetism
Flippers, coils and powerFlippers, coils and power Flippers, coils and power
Electromagnets and accelerationElectromagnets and acceleration Electromagnets and acceleration
Chimes, vibrations and pitchesChimes, vibrations and pitches Chimes, vibrations and pitches
Testing Solenoid StrengthTesting Solenoid Strength Solenoid strength test

Animated Circuits

See schematic diagrams come to life with animations that illustrate how they work.

Animated circuit exampleAnimated circuit example

In Person Classes and Workshops

Interactive learning opportunities are also available.

Pinball Engineering WorkshopPinball Engineering Workshop The Pinball Engineering workshop is a hands on exploration of many of the devices used in pinball machines and how they work. 
EM Pinball Repair and Restoration classEM Pinball Repair and Restoration class The Electromechanical Pinball Repair and Restoration class is a deep dive into understanding, repairing and troubleshooting electromechanical pinball machines.


Live Online Troubleshooting and Diagnosis


The EM Pinball Online Repair Clinic is a periodic video conference that gives you an opportunity to discuss specific issues you're having with your game with experienced troubleshooters, or to watch while other folks' game problems are sorted out.


Game design example

Studying complete designs is another good way to understand how simple components work together to behave in complex ways.

Game Design exampleGame Design example Visit the game design example to understand how parts of The Puzzle from the Games page work in detail.


PinBox 3000 projects

Here are some ideas to try if you're building your own PinBox 3000 or similar game.

Cardboard Pinball Pop Target instructionsCardboard Pinball Pop Target instructions  Cardboard Pinball Pop Target instructions
Scoring and sound system Scoring and Sound system