Halloween in Hyde Park, 2022: Plinko Board

A lot of final, finishing touches today. Overnight, Liz had glued down a small strip of wood we cut, which sat on top of the upper dividers.

We also shot some small 1″ brad nails through this piece, into the upper dividers. A little daunting, but I think it helped with the structural support.

It’s hard to see, but we cut a smaller piece of plexi that only covers the bottom candy row. This divider has a very small rabbit, and is meant to hold up the bigger piece of plexi glass that covers the actual gameplay rea.

Our goal with the bottom candy plexi glass: prevent kids from reaching in and grabbing the candy directly (display purposes only). This was a lazy move on our part, as we didn’t want to have to bend down and replace each piece of candy, every time someone played the game.

Also – if we ran out of a certain candy over the course of the night, we could simply slide the plexi up a little bit… and swap out the candy for something we had more in stock. Overall, we thought this was a nice, utilitarian design.

The legs were a bit tight. Liz ended up needing to sand down the sides so we could get them to fit.

The wires, slightly tamed but still pretty out of control. I replaced the alligator clips with longer lengths of wire that I twisted together. No soldering, as I had a suspicion I might need thicker gauge wire.

I ran into a bit of luck. Once we had things wired up… I decided I wanted to try to revisit the LED animation. The current approach had us pulsing the LED strips slowly, and then doing an animation once one of the switches was triggered.

I wondered if the constant pulsing of the LEDs was too taxing, and a potential cause for what happened to my jumper wires. I also wondered if I could simply not do any animations until a switch registered, lessening the power draw.

Again – at this point in time, I was like 50/50 on whether this thing would catch fire tonight.

As I was playing around with various animation options, I had the external power supply disconnected, and my laptop hooked up directly to the Arduino. Imagine my surprise when I saw both LED strips powered sufficiently, and running just fine off my laptop!

After choosing a few pre-defined animations, and some shameless and shoddy copy/paste, I got a decently fun animation set together.

By default, I was running DemoReel100… which gave some nice looking effects, without having every LED on all the time. And when a switch was triggered, I ran a Fireworks animation along the side strips.

I also lit up the specific candy slot, associated with a given switch. As a kind of “Here’s what you got” highlight.

Relieved that I could use my laptop to power things, and largely avoid any fire/melting scenarios… we were finally ready to set up on the front porch. This really took us up to the wire.

Liz, working as the guide and standing next to the Plinko Board.

Me, working as the guide and handing out pucks.

We had a blast, watching kids step up and try to “win” their candy. I think the most memorable moments for us were when the kids tried to unsuccessfully play the game (we had several kids just throw the pucks at the board, head-on).

More than one kid put the puck up against the plexi, and let it go. This resulted in the pucks falling directly down, right onto the small divider bar that Liz had glued the night prior.

Thankfully, it held up pretty well. I think the brad nails we threw in helped provide some much needed support.

We also had several pucks get stuck, along the sides. I’d seen some designs that included some triangles, to prevent this… but we were mostly able to call some audibles as this happened. Luckily for us, Liz made 4 different colored pucks, so we always had one spare to use. Note: we did have just one instance where all four pucks/attempts got stuck. But just once.

The pucks themselves also got stickier, as the night wore on. I’m guessing this is due to the fact that we had a litany of children touching these things with their hands, which were likely encrusted with sugar. We improved things by washing some of the pucks, but keeping things slick will be an interesting problem to solve for next year.

I was mostly in the greeter role, and Liz was mostly in the candy-giver role. One thing she pointed out ot me (because I was too busy to look up) was the fact that at several times over the evening… we had quite the queue building up. I think our max was something like a line, 15 kids deep. Which was really flattering to hear.

We had several neighbors stop by, and hung out on our porch with us for a bit (which was really nice). Sylvia, from the condo next door, remarked on our Halloween projects from last year (incredibly flattering to hear). Connie and Bill stopped by, with their son William (who helped distribute candy for a good while).

Closer to 9PM, things slowed down. And we finally had a chance to visit with some of our other neighbors from across the street. Every year, I think about how I should take some photos of their houses during the day… and then the evening festivities kick in, and I barely have time to look up.

Across the way, Mark and Anna had a spooky projection going.

Next door, a joint Stranger Things theme going.

Fun side note: our original idea for the Plinko board came from Stranger Things. We were thinking of doing a bigger Rainbow Room theme, but then things took a turn. I like how our Plinko Board turned out, but it definitely looks more like a tuxedo than a hospital gown.

Visiting with Mercedes, Mark, and Anna.

Max, hanging out.

On the other side, Mark and Tamara (and Maeve) depicted the upside down.

And a Vecna, to boot!

A view of our front porch, towards the very end of the evening. I have to say, the fact that we had a light display built into the project was really nice.

As the sun set, and the evening took over… our lights became more and more of a draw. And illuminated our porch. A nice bonus.

Inside our house, things are a wreck. Piles of stuff in every room, in various states of chaos.

Whisky and pucks and candy.

Liz and I did a tally, trying to estimate how much candy we gave away. Based on the empty bags, we ballparked things.

We went through 10 bags of Dots (17 pieces each). And 4 bags of KitKats/Reese’s (80 pieces each). Which put us just shy of 500 pieces of candy (each kid got one piece).

More stuff, just randomly stored about.

What a night. We’re both exhausted, after nearly a week of non-stop work on this project. At several points, it ceased to be a fun thing and started to become a stressor. The lesson we never seem to learn is to start earlier.

Overall, we had a great Halloween night – and seemed to make a lot of kids pretty happy. It feels nice to be back in the spirit of Halloween, after feeling like I’ve been away from it for a few years.

A really nice night, around a lot of excited kids. And we continue to feel so fortunate to be part of this neighborhood block, with other great neighbors.

Plinko Board Build, Day 1: Dado Cuts and Layout
Plinko Board Build, Day 2: Dividers and Dowel Rods
Plinko Board Build, Day 3: Dry Fit and Some Chaos
Plinko Board Build, Day 4: Dado Cuts, Revisited
Plinko Board Build, Day 5: Frame Install, Plexi Glass Fit
Plinko Board Build, Day 6: Leg Work, Paint, and the Start of the Electronics
Plinko Board Build, Day 7: A Disturbing Discovery, Electronics Install, and the First Test Run

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