New Age Pong


As many of you know, “Pong”, also referred to as “Beer Pong” or “Beirut”, is the most commonly played Beer drinking game in America. It is so popular in fact that the Beer Pong Beer of Choice, Natural Light, is the 5th highest selling domestic beer in the country, a statistic many attribute to the college-lovers game. For those of you that don’t know this game check out: How to play pong!

Pong in its early games gets boring. Not all 4 players are involved and there just is a lot of waiting. The New Age Pong table intends to turn this wasted time into a side game that happens INSIDE the table. Instead of simply throwing a ball back to the opponent, this table will require the player to put a ball in a slot on their side of the table. Through a network of tracks, tubes, fans, and conveyer belts the ball can reach the opponents side, come back to the player, or get thrown out of the table!

Where is the interactive element you might ask? Well all of these motors and fans don’t simply turn on with the flick of a switch. They must be activated by placing Beer Cans and your water cup on different areas of the table. The correct arrangement of items on the table will send the ping pong ball through the maze to you or send it shooting back somewhere else.Can you figure it out before the end of the game?

How It Works?

The table has a network of 10-12 beer can placement locations. These locations each have either an IR sensor, force sensor, or simple switch below them that are linked to a specific moving part in the network. For example, placing a can over one IR sensor location will activate a fan that will send the ball one direction. However, to conserve energy and general distraction there is a start/stop button on both sides of the table that when pressed will start all linked objects.

Even though the table top will be glass so that players can see the ball travel, they will not know which locations control which motors. Only through trial and error will they be able to figure out exactly where everything is supposed to be.

To add another level of complexity, every time the designated reset button is pressed, all sensors get randomly assigned to a new motor. Giving new puzzles to figure out every game.

Shopping List

Motors: 2 servos, at least 4 DC motors, at least 4 mini fans
Sensors: 6 IR sensors, 4 force sensors
External Power to Wall
LEDs and EL wire for aesthetics
Arcade buttons for Start/Stop and Reset
switch registers

Lumber: 8’x3′ ply, 2x4s for support and legs
Glass top pre cut
Ball Tracks: PVC piping, dowels, thin malliable copper tubing

Implementation Plan

Week 1_ gather different motors and interactive elements. Sketch out final tracks. Test switch registers.

Week2_Begin testing of various track options and seeing how best to use each motor and if they are powerful enough to get the ball where it needs to be

Week3_Layout all sensor and motors (no tracks) and write code. Have all this working with buttons and ensure external power supply is enough

Week4_construction. make the table, install the motors/sensors/switches and take most time and care on tracks. Finally finish the wood, seal the glass top, and play!

Pong Design …..much better design and drawing coming soon…

The Most Difficult Parts – Possible Troubleshooting

To make this really fun many different interactive elements are required. Therefore switch registers might be required for outputs. While actually using switch registers isn’t difficult, to continue the random assignment feature with switch registers might be difficult.

Construction in general will be very difficult. While the table itself should be easy, making the various tracks and accessories to motors (conveyor belts, gears) need to be created very precisely to ensure that the ping pong ball does not get stuck in the system. Since there is a glass top over the entire system, if a ball did get stuck it would be very difficult to release it.

Other troubles might arise when the table is actually used and liquid falls in to the retrieval holes. Cleaning will be difficult and if the inside of the table is not cleaned the stickiness of the dried liquids could slow down the ball and cause it to get stuck in the system again.

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