Time to get lost in a project!
The Everchanging Ball Maze is a handheld 3D puzzle that is never the same twice. Put it together with some geometry and puzzle-making skills, and solve it using sound, touch, and memory. I like it because it allows students and teachers to make quick, light-hearted challenges for each other which sometimes can be quick and sometimes devastatingly difficult. GET A-MAZE-D.
What: Everchanging Ball Maze
Time: ~ 30 minutes to make, then forever after
Cost: ~ $15-20 for all parts, depending on how large you want it
- Plastic Syringes x 2 (or other plastic tubes)
- Ball (marble or ball bearing)
- PVC tubing (that fits your ball)
- PVC joints (T, Elbow, End Caps, and Connectors are great)
- Hot Glue gun / Hot glue
- Saw (plastic saw for syringe)
- PVC Cutter (hacksaw or clip cutters)
- Drill with bits (or drill press)
- Sandpaper (optional)
Let's get in there!
Step 1: Start and Finish
We need a beginning an end!
An easy way to do this for marbles or ball bearings is to use a syringe as they're cheap and clear. Sand off the measurement marking, sand off the measurement marks, and cut them down a bit. Make a pair!
Step 2: Drilling and Filling
Let's put the start and finish in some end caps.
Find a spade bit that matches the diameter of your tubes (I used 5/8"), and use a drill or a drill press to make holes in the end caps. Hot glue them together, to seal them.
You can also add tape or markings to differentiate them as when you're in the maze, it's easy to get confused about where you're going and where you've been. :)
Step 3: Make Tunnels
The main path of your ball maze is going to be PVC tubes. Cut a bunch of different lengths to make lots of different possibilities for putting them together. You can use a pipe cutter, PVC cutter, or just a hacksaw. You'll also want to leave some extra PVC for once you start building your maze as you may get ideas and need just the right length.
If you want, you can sand off the print to make parts look snazzy. I don't mind the text, so I left them for now.
Step 4: Assemble a Puzzle
Start putting together your first ball maze for someone to figure out. Combine joints and tubes to make a pathway from start to finish. Put your ball in one of the Start/End Tubes, and cap them on the ends, and you're ready to play.
A couple fun notes about building:
- Angle - Angle joints this way and that. The most interesting puzzles involve a lot of angles that you have to turn over and over.
- Splitting - T-joints can be great for splitting paths, and with geometry you can re-connect them later. Or put end caps there.
- Drops - T-joints can also be used as a mid-tube drop where the ball has to roll along the bottom, and then drop into another.
- Cover - Cover all possible pathways with endcaps or by re-connecting them so your ball doesn't fall out.
- Routes- How many possible routes in one maze can you make?
- Traps - For extra bonus, you can put in magnet traps glued to end caps where balls can't escape.
Step 5: Get A-MAZE-D
Time to hop in your labyrinth or give it to a friend!
For this maze, you're going to have solve it with feel, sound, and memory alone. As the ball travels through, turn it over and over, until you reach the end. See if you can get faster. Is it equally hard if you switch start and end? Can you go a different route?
It's truly fun. :)
Step 6: Re-Make, Re-Maze!
After you've done a maze, make another for a friend! Try each other's mazes, and see what you can add. Cut more PVC to match your maze, and see if you can add in other obstacles. Put in magnet traps, more than one ball, windows, or cross-beams along the way.
You'll never see the same maze twice.
So keep exploring, stay lost, and I'm excited to see what you make!