RePlay Magazine: Professor uses pinball as teaching tool

Pinball machines help students learn engineering and design

Zach Fuchs incorporated his hobby of fixing up old pinball machines into his engineering courses and lab at the University of Cincinnati. Fuchs, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, teaches two courses centered around pinball. 

a man works on the electrical components of a pinball machine

Zach Fuchs, assistant professor, uses pinball to teach various engineering and design principles. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

Fuchs was featured in RePlay Magazine, a trade magazine for the coin-operated amusement game industry. Fuchs employs pinball machines as a fun way to teach a variety of principles in his mechatronics course. 

“The class focuses on how to sense and interact with the world around us through the integration of microcontrollers, actuators, sensors and supporting electronics,” Fuchs told Replay. “Although the lessons are taught within the context of pinball, the topics are generally applicable to the broader embedded systems, automation and robotics industries and provide students with valuable hands-on experience in building and testing a real-world, cyber-physical system.”

He also teaches a pinball design and programming course as part of the University Honors Program, which is open to students in any major. Fuchs said the course fuses multiple disciplines, including engineering, computing, design and art, to “create an integrated pinball experience that tells a story.”

In October, Fuchs took his students to Chicago to the Pinball Expo and a tour of the Stern Pinball factory. Stern has donated pinball machines and components. 

Fuchs’ classes and research are also supported by an Ohio Department of Higher Education grant and the Air Force Research Lab. His research work includes developing AI strategies for adversarial environments. 

Read more about how Zach Fuchs got started with pinball

Read the Replay Magazine article

Featured image at top: Pinball machines in Zach Fuchs' UC research lab. Photo/Corrie Mayer/UC CEAS Marketing.