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High Tech Foosball Table, Fall 2015

This fall at the Deason Innovation Gym (we call it the DIG), a team of 16 students, 4 student coaches and 3 staff and faculty worked together every Tuesday night for two months to imagine, design, prototype and build a regulation foosball table. By the time they were done, they had not only created a full-sized foosball table, but also decked it out with SMU-themed and 3D-printed horsetail-shaped handles and mustang players. LED lights brightly illuminated the table’s field, framed by a sensor-based score advancing system. Built-in speakers pumped tunes from a smartphone for a game time soundtrack.

At the beginning, students started the process by brainstorming possible features and then dividing into sub-teams of woodworking, electronics and coding, and 3D modeling and printing. Each team was comprised both of students with experience and those who were new to the skills needed. More advanced students had the opportunity to teach and coach students with less knowledge to help them build the skills they needed to make a contribution to the project.

The next step was focused on creating full-scale cardboard prototypes of the table, the players, the handles and other components of the table. Students learned an important lesson in prototyping: you can’t round up many times on the same project. All those ¼ inches eventually added up and our cardboard prototype was too big! Luckily, it was only cardboard!

After we worked out the kinks on the prototype, teams worked collaboratively and delegated tasks to build the actual table. Several students worked on deliverables for the project during the week (drawing schematics for the woodworking team, CAD modeling, coding) so that they could advance their team’s efforts.

As we neared completion, students worked on solving specific issues that arose in the building process. We felt the table was too tall so the legs were trimmed down. We identified weakness in the handles and players, which were then improved. Bugs in the code for the scoring system were worked out. The final design for the ball return was hammered out.

At the end of eight weeks, we had a fully functioning foosball table, complete with the features we had originally imagined. The final touches were put on the table -- vinyl cut logos were cut and affixed, a plaque with everyone’s laser cut signature was attached, the table was sanded down.

Students who participated in the project learned a lot from the process of realizing a tangible object. They discovered lessons about prototyping, measuring, design, troubleshooting, collaboration, communication and documentation. Everyone built new skills, whether technical or those related to collaboration and communication. And, at the end of the day, we could all bask in the glory of the table and share the story of what we made together while enjoying a fun game of foosball! Caroline Gurley, a student member of the team wrote this recap as well!

To learn more about the process and see the table in action, check out this video!