Design and Construction of Modern University of Virginia Themed Pinball Machine; The New Age of Luck: The Impact of Technology on Gambling and Sports Betting Culture

Habron, Thomas, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Garner, Gavin, EN-Mech & Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Wayland, Kent, Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

During my last two semesters as a student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia, I worked on two assignments that put together everything I have learned over my years at the University and put them to the test. My technical project involved the design of a UVA themed pinball table. This project allowed me to apply my technical skills in design, mechatronics, and manufacturing that I have learned over my last three years. My STS research paper discussed the sociocultural effects of sports betting as opposed to traditional casino gambling. Both of these projects are of interest to me for a multitude of reasons. The interest in my technical project stems from my interests in design and working on challenging projects which I will continue to do throughout my career. My interest in my research paper stems from my participation in sports betting and learning about its implementation into society as well as the larger implications surrounding engineers' responsibilities for these technologies. The goal of my technical project was to build a fully operational UVA-themed pinball table from scratch with a group of mechanical engineering majors. My responsibilities included designing a solenoid driver to control mechanisms like the flippers and slingshots which are very important parts of the game, programming and wiring four multiplexers in parallel to manage sensor data, and creating a custom protective case and mount for the digital displays on the games playfield. We didn’t finish the project, but we made significant progress, particularly in assembling the upper playfield where all mechanical components were completed, tested, and found operational. Through this project, my technical and problem-solving skills were tested, and it vastly improved my communication skills when it comes to working in a large team. Furthermore, this project also taught me more about how the design iteration project works and how it is a very important part of engineering. My STS research paper discussed the changing perceptions of gambling due to the growth and promotion of sports betting. The paper went into an in-depth discussion on how sports betting is being viewed by the public and how it is being handled through governmental legislation in various states. The goal of the research paper was to answer the question “How has the portrayal of sports betting in media and sports sponsorships contributed to its normalization,
and how does this compare with the representation of traditional casino gambling?” through the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) STS framework. My research paper also examined the roles that marketing, and celebrity endorsements play in shaping public attitudes towards sports betting and its blending into sports culture. My research found that sports betting is
becoming a normal part of everyday life and does not carry the same stigma as traditional casino gambling. This is largely due to modern day sports culture where sports betting is viewed as a source of entertainment. This vastly contrasts with the long negative portrayal of casino gambling. My research highlights significant shifts in how gambling is perceived and suggested that these changes could influence future regulatory and social norms. Reflecting on these projects, I am pleased with my work and insights I gained, despite the challenges I faced along the way. The technical project which remains unfinished has laid the groundwork for future efforts and provided me with experience in time management and completing complex tasks that require team problem solving. My STS research added to my understanding of how technology and societal issues interact and shape each other. It also added to my understanding of just how important engineers are when they are designing and implementing these new technologies into people's lives and the risks associated with their implementation. Both projects were valuable, reinforcing the importance of applying technical skills in real world contexts and staying mindful of the broader societal implications of having these skills.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Pinball, Sports Betting, Sports, Gambling

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Technical Advisor: Gavin Garner

STS Advisor: Kent Wayland

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

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