Design and Construction of Modern University of Virginia Themed Pinball Machine; Examining the Effect of Population Growth and Increased Construction on the Salamander Biodiversity in Highlands, North Carolina

Lu, Gabriel, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Garner, Gavin, EN-Mech & Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Francisco, Pedro Augusto, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Isolation and related mental health issues are plaguing many communities across the United States including college campuses. The design and construction of a novel University of Virginia themed pinball machine aims to combat the sense of social solitude. Implementation of this machine in Charlottesville, Virginia could create a sense of unity and connection that may strengthen the sense of community at the University of Virginia. Highlands, North Carolina is currently the salamander capitol of the world, unmatched in terms of biodiversity. A recent influx of inhabitants and underregulated construction practices are now threatening many of these species, and the loss of nature could be catastrophic on people’s mental health and the economy. Although a pinball machine in Charlottesville and the salamanders in Highlands initially seem unconnected, both of these topics revolve around the issues of isolation, disconnectedness, and poor mental health. Preserving nature with its ability to connect people and improve mental health and constructing a pinball machine to bring a community together both serve to highlight the everyday beauties in life and build a sense of togetherness.
Building a University of Virginia themed pinball machine to be installed in a common area for students to use will serve to encourage unity and a sense of community. Ever since the onset of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19) as a pandemic in early 2020, mental health issues caused by isolation have increased rapidly. Now that isolation is no longer mandated by the government, many negative mental health patterns have persisted. Designing and constructing a pinball machine, filled with references and jokes that a specific community would understand, aims to increase the sense of solidarity and community felt in this time of isolation.
Throughout the course of this project, a significant amount of progress was made towards a completed University of Virginia themed pinball machine. Many mechanisms were designed and constructed so that they now operate consistently. The upper playfield was brought to near completion, and many other mechanisms were also designed. Although it is still a work in progress, the progress made in this project will serve as a significant head start for another group to finish this product.
Due to the recent threats that the salamander population has experienced in the salamander capitol of the world, it has become crucial to examen the relationship between the increase of population and increased construction in Highlands, North Carolina, and the salamander biodiversity in that region. Nature has a significant positive effect on the mental health of those that are exposed to it. It also provides many opportunities for people to bond and connect. A literature review will be used to examine the current state of affairs for the salamanders in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and examine the connection between their wellbeing and the influx of people to the area. Throughout the course of this research, it was found that there has been a significant increase in population and reckless construction. These have both had negative impacts of the climate necessary for salamanders to thrive. These factors have led to a significant predicted decline in salamander biodiversity. Immediate action is required by both lawmakers and citizens to protect and preserve the salamander habitats and the salamanders themselves.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Pinball, Mechatronics, Biodiversity, Highlands, North Carolina, Salamanders

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Technical Advisor: Gavin Garner

STS Advisor: Pedro Francisco

Technical Team Members: Mina Ansari, Olivia Bearman, Phillip Bongiorno, Adam Centanni, Ian Chang, Thomas Cook, Benen Crombie, Scott Durkin, Ethan Green, Tom Habron, Matthew Leclair, Isaac Leshok, Jacob Leynes, Will McClung, Patrick Nguyen, Keith Tam

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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