Circuit Arcade
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Creative Commons License
Circuit Arcade by Patrick Dempsey and Rob Rambach, 2016 Allen Distinguished Educators is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Project Overview

In this project students gain an understanding of the engineering design process by building a cardboard arcade game where winning or losing completes an electrical circuit.  Students will present their arcade game to an audience of middle school or elementary school students.

Patrick Dempsey and Rob Rambach

School: Hixson Middle School

Type of School: Public – District

Location: Webster Groves, MO

School Population: 693

Demographic: 25% minority students

% Free/reduced lunch program: 19%

Learning Outcomes

This project integrates science, engineering design and social studies concepts and meets learning standards in language arts, physical sciences, engineering, and technology and applications of science. Students will be able to construct a working electrical circuit, explain how electrons move through their circuit, learn from failure, design and build an arcade game, explain force and motion concepts, and effectively use the engineering design process.

Download the open-source Project Plan Materials to view a complete list of standards and learning outcomes addressed in this project.

How Patrick and Rob Did It

Grade: 8th

Timing: Eight, 50-minute class periods

Subjects: science, engineering and design, social studies

Materials: Cardboard, packing tape, Christmas lights, electrical tape, scissors

Project Steps: Rob and Patrick implement this project in four stages following an initial hour preparation. The stages include: Hook, Design, Build, and Game Day.

How You Can Do It

Grade: 6 - 12th 

Timing: 3-6 weeks (divide the four project steps in a way that compliments your school bell schedule)

Subjects: science, engineering and design, social studies, art, business

Materials: Basic materials for this project are required such as lights, cardboard, scissors and tape. Optional materials can add more design and interactive elements to the arcade games such as paint, buzzers, electric motors, switches or buttons etc.

Project Steps: In addition to the project steps developed by Rob and Patrick, you could expand this project to include a greater emphasis on business/marketing and art. For example, your students could market their arcade, charge to play games, and allocate more time to adding art and visual design elements.
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Comments (5)
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Brian Nelson
5/15/2017 10:46:55 AM

Teacher from Wichita, KS
This was a wonderful project. We held a carnival in our class for the 6th graders. The loved it! The students learned so much while building their projects. They were forced to find creative solutions to all the challenges they faced during construction. They had to think like real engineers.

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Jason Hubbard
2/8/2017 5:32:31 AM

Teacher from Perrysburg, OH
Hi there!
I received the ADE grant and used the monies to outfit my classroom with Makey Makeys to do what was suggested here! We are wrapping up the project and the 3rd grade students have created cardboard video game controllers that interface with Scratch games. We have utilized the design process to understand and build simple electrical circuits with the Makey Makeys, moved on to understanding and building switches, designed and evaluated nonworking prototypes that mimic proper "look" and "feel" of game controllers, and now finishing working prototypes and sharing in a game arcade style.
Exciting, fun, and full of learning!
-Jason

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Jenny Burns
9/6/2016 10:33:32 AM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
Hi Dawn!

Thanks for joining in. I like your idea to add MaKey Makeys as a way to incorporate coding. It sounds like you might have some game designs in mind. Have you considered bringing this project to your students?

Rob and Patrick designed this project for small groups, and I've also seen entire classrooms come together to design one game. Perhaps if you consider adding more complexities to the game design, your class could take on the project together. You could also involve wood shop or art class.

- Jenny

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Dawn DuPriest
9/5/2016 1:07:43 PM

Teacher from Fort Collins, CO
I love the way your project plan came together - I wish I could be in your class! Props to you guys for including a Makerspace in a core science class. As an extension, if you have access to some MaKey MaKeys, kids could use them to make an arcade game that interfaces to Scratch or any other coding language. The MaKey MaKey could allow their circuit to play music or start an animation, and keep score!

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Jenny Burns
6/30/2016 12:40:01 PM

Allen Distinguished Educators Moderator
How can teachers adapt this project to fit their own classrooms? Does anyone have suggestions or recommendations?

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