This week, I introduced my after-school STEAM club to the Cardboard Challenge. When I first told them we were going to be building games from cardboard, my teens were skeptical. All their brainstorming ideas at first involved coding and electronics. Then we watched Caine’s Arcade and they were entranced. Suddenly, the ideas started pouring out of them as they were inspired by this amazing child and his creations. When I first saw the sketch one of my 8th graders, J., made for The Best Game Ever, I thought he was just reminiscing about a Game Boy. But his game was more than that.
J.’s idea was to create a game where you would insert a coin (or in this case, a circular K’nex piece) and try to make it roll down a ramp and into a bin. His first iteration was with a stryofoam ramp, but through trial and error, he quickly discovered that the K’nex wouldn’t roll down this surface at all. So he had to trouble shoot and rework his design.
J. took out the styrofoam ramp and replaced it with a cardboard ramp. The game now worked much better, and it was actually possible for someone to win. But this still wasn’t quite enough. J. came back in for lunch the next day to tinker with his project some more. He decided to add a window so that people could see through the box but couldn’t cheat while playing the game. He also added an obstacle to the ramp making it more difficult to roll the K’nex down. Now people playing the game have to try to flick the K’nex over the obstacles.
We invited beta testers to try out this newest version of The Best Game Ever. It’s still a work in progress. Some future improvements J. has planned: more methods to prevent cheating; a littleBits buzzer that goes off when someone scores; a “fee” collection system. I can’t wait to see what our cardboard arcade will look like when all the projects come together!