4th Grade Sure Plays a Mean Pinball!


The maker mentality of learning through trial and error came to life in 4th grade over the last few weeks. In April, 4th grade students started constructing pinball machines made from cardboard, craft sticks, rubber bands, push pins and other items found around the classroom. Regis 4th grade teacher, Kelly Hughes, said the project was about "learning to fail and having to fix things." The boys were tasked with coming up with a theme for their pinball machine, creating a launcher, constructing flippers and installing obstacles in their machine. After coming up with their ideas, the boys began construction and painting. The culmination of their project ended with a trip to Duchesne to showcase their pinball machines with other 4th grade students.


From crazy cats to sports to fantasy, the students chose fun themes for their pinball creations. "We chose baseball," said 4th grade student, John Cogan. "The second to last day of building, it broke." Mrs. Hughes explained that the project was more about building something, figuring out why it broke and fixing it without getting emotional. When asked what they learned the most, John said, "Use more hot glue when building a homemade project," and his project partner, Tate Stai, added, "Don't use too much Mod Podge!"


"We chose baseball Avengers," said Tate Cunningham and Ignacio Benitez-Monroy, explaining that they couldn't agree on a theme, so they married two ideas together. "The flippers were the most difficult thing," said Ignacio. Tate C. and Ignacio approached their project in a different manner, dividing the tasks between themselves in order to work faster. "[Tate] did a lot of the building because I was doing launcher classes with other people—showing them how to build launchers," continued Ignacio. When asked what they learned from this project, Ignacio expressed learning to work together was the biggest takeaway for him. "That cardboard is very valuable!" said Tate C. "And, hot glue isn't as good as we thought it would be," added Ignacio. If they had to do it all over again, Tate and Ignacio said they might choose a better theme next time.


"We didn't really chose a theme, we just wanted to do regular pinball," said Drew Aguirre. "Yeah, we just wanted to do a pinball machine with no theme at all," added Chase Whitman. Drew and Chase went through several iterations of flipper-building before landing on a design that worked—craft sticks, plenty of hot glue and rubber bands. "We can use mechanics like this for other projects," John said, reflecting on what they learned from building their machine. "What we learned was always have a partner, basically because I couldn't have got this done without help," said Drew.


"We wanted to choose an old theme that we both liked," explained Titi Labarthe when discussing his project. He and his partner, Jack Abbott, chose 'Fantasy' for their theme because they both love dragons. Their pinball machine came equipped with a castle-like obstacle and "red paint to represent the warfare that occurs in fantasy stories," mentioned Jack Abbott. "I think what we learned the most was how to be creative," said Titi.


On Friday, May 3, Regis 4th grade students packed up their pinball machines, boarded a bus, and traveled to Duchesne to share their projects with Duchesne's 4th grade students. Their sister classes had also built pinball machines, and now it was time to compare and contrast the differences in the students' construction. "[Duchesne's] were unique," said John Cogan, "and they were more arcade style than an actual pinball machine." "They were way different," continued Drew Aguirre, "they didn't have the flipper mechanism."

Regis' 4th grade students noticed differences in functionality between each school's pinball machines, noting that the girls approached the project in a different way than they did. "Theirs were very manual," said Tate Cunningham. "They [also] had multiple pinballs." The students rotated through the Duchesne classrooms, with each Regis student having the opportunity to play all of the Duchesne machines and vice versa. The students enjoyed this opportunity to visit their sister school and explore the different ways in which boys and girls approach the same project. After testing out the machines, the 4th grade students all enjoyed lunch together in the Duchesne cafeteria.