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Ding, Ding! CSULA’s real ‘Pinball Wizards’ garner first place

AeroDef challenges students in technology, manufacturing engineering skills

Photo of CSULA AeroDef team posing with the champion pinball machine. CSULA’s 2011 AeroDef team (l-r): Mark Hirami, John Morris, Jai Hong, Hernan Garcia, Blake Cortis and Sandra Shreiner. (Not pictured: Vanessa Arana, Steve Jimenez, Paul Katsumura, and Jose Padilla.)

Proving that real “Pinball Wizards” do more than just drop a quarter and finesse the flippers, a team of nine technology and engineering students from Cal State L.A. recently won first place for its Golden Eagle Pinball Machine in the University Division of the 2011 AeroDef Manufacturing Exhibition and Conference Manufacturing Challenge, which took place April 5 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The CSULA crew constructed a champion pinball machine—with spinners, switches, targets, flippers, kickers and bumpers—out of a combination of materials, such as woods, plastics, composites and various metals.

All components were modeled using high-end 3D parametric design software and then machined using manual and computer numerical-control methods. A series of electronic controllers for the lighting and scoring systems were also utilized in developing the pinball machine.

Beating out 11 other colleges and universities with their innovative concept, engineering skills and problem-solving abilities, CSULA’s AeroDef team members included industrial technology majors Vanessa Arana, Blake Cortis, Hernan Garcia, Mark Hirami, Steve Jimenez, Paul Katsumura, Jose Padilla and Sandra Schreiner, along with mechanical engineering major John Morris and technical staff member Chris Reid.

“Participating in the AeroDef manufacturing competition allowed me the opportunity to use many of the tools I have learned in class and apply them to our project,” said Garcia. “Thanks to everyone’s hard work and dedication, our Golden Eagle Pinball [Machine] was awarded first prize in the competition. Being a part of this project was a great learning experience that I am sure will help me in future school projects and later in a working environment.”

According to faculty adviser Jai Hong, associate professor of industrial technology at CSULA, “The students faced real-life challenges during the project—from maintaining a budget, meeting deadlines and time constraints, to tackling mechanical and electrical problems. Much like in private industry, each team member had a distinct role in the project.”

For the competition, each part and process was thoroughly documented, tested, and reviewed for quality assurance. The pinball machine was developed to showcase its practical, lean manufacturing design, and its business model.

Schreiner noted, “I believe it is important to put into practice the knowledge we gain through education sooner rather than later. The real world expectations of product to customer deadlines can be better understood through manufacturing competition requirements and experiences. I am proud to have been a part of CSULA’s first place AeroDef team.”

Professor Hong remarked, “To transform an outdated machine to something new and attractive, the team building the custom pinball machine applied vintage, mechanical and high-tech electrical systems that made it stand out from the rest. Congratulations to our students for their achievement!”


AeroDef Manufacturing Exhibition and Conference—an exciting hands-on competition to engage future generations in technology and manufacturing—is a new Society of Manufacturing Engineers event providing manufacturing solutions for the unique needs of aerospace and defense manufactures. The conference also provides an opportunity for aerospace manufacturers to meet with manufacturing technology and process providers featuring innovative solutions to their industry challenges. The Manufacturing Challenge is a stimulating day for collegiate-level engineering and technology students to demonstrate the importance of connection between classroom lectures/labs and industrial applications.


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Last Update: 05/23/2011