Discovering Where to Start
For at least a year, I’ve wanted to build a pinball machine. Specifically, I want a custom My Little Pony:FiM** pin laden with Zap-Apple pop bumpers and Pinkie Pie spinners, Derpy drop targets, and saturated with audio!
It’s an audacious goal, and for a year it’s sat proudly on the shelves of my half-bakery. I keep adding work-blogs of folk with the same crazy aspirations, but their work is inspiring rather than enabling. Seriously, check out that Ghostbusters pin!
The problem is that even with reasonably similar goals, no two people start out with the same knowledge, skills, or materials.
This amazing Bioshock machine stared out by building a blank cabinet. My woodworking can be described charitably as aspirational. Starting in the woodshop would mean not starting at all.
The Ghostbusters machine is built on top of a Flash Gordon machine. Buying a distressed machine means incurring a ton of cost and upending Annika’s playroom before I ever face my first challenge. I want this project to expand my capabilities as a maker, not as a craigslist hound.
There are many ways to the heart of a project this large and this complicated. This morning I think I finally articulated mine, one that lets me start from the unique Venn-overlap for my skills, experience and materials. Importantly, there’s nothing standing in the way of that prototype other than my skills and my commitment. It’s an existence proof, not for Princess Celestia’s Pinball Adventure, but for my dedication to this project.
This first device won’t look anything like a pinball machine, but building it will open up a few more steps along my path towards pinball.
Selecting a starting point is a huge part of the metacognitive design process, and one that teacher-makers need to model and live with their students. Not how to build a widget, but how to find your own base camp on the approach to Mt Widget. When you don’t know how to reach the destination, can you find the right first step to take?
**I love pinball and I love ponies. I apologize for neither.