Math and Computer Science Students Take Senior Project on Tour

Friday, May 12, 2006
As a senior project, three Wilkes students repaired a classic pinball machine by installing modern computer technology. They presented it at the Allentown Pinball Wizards Convention, the largest tradeshow on the east coast, May 5-7, 2006.

Chris Issler, of Newton, N.J., and Joe Price, of Exeter, presented their senior project -- a pinball machine entirely under computer control -- at the convention. A third group member, Ryan Pecukonis, of West Wyoming, also worked on the project but was unable to attend.

“Pinball enthusiasts really enjoyed peering under the hood,” said Dr. M. Anthony Kapolka, associate professor of mathematics/computer science.

On Saturday, the computer-emulated machine was featured at the show entrance, where several thousand people got to see it. It was available for free-play during much of the show.

“Pinball machines have lost popularity since games like Playstation and X-box. Also, their size, weight and expense (a new machine costs about $4,500) make them less appealing to gamers,” said Issler.

There is still a large group of people that enjoy playing and collecting pinball machines, however. Places like bars and arcades use pinball machines since they are more durable than an X-box controller.

The students’ machine plays exactly like the original Disco Fever, the game it was modeled after, except it is run by a computer, not the original circuit boards.

“Next year,” said Issler, “a group (of students) will be asked to make changes to the logic of the game, making it more interactive, more complicated and hopefully more enjoyable.”

The original “back glass,” the vertical glass that faces the player, was redesigned by Price to have a screen for displaying scores and the Wilkes name.

There is currently one other working computer-emulated pinball machine using the same hardware and software used by the students. It was built by the same person who built the hardware, but Issler and Price are the first to buy his hardware and replicate the process.

The machine is now being kept in the math/computer science club room, until it can be moved for display to the Henry Student Center.

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