Introduction: Table Top Arcade Center

By Nathan Blaylock

Spring 2016

Essence statement:

Live the arcade experience with your own games at home.


This table top arcade center will be made with wood, and will be complete with a built in

screen and computer, speakers, joystick and buttons that will allow the user to play games

on Scratch (like Pacman or Astroids) or other games anywhere that single power source is available.


Anyone who wants to have a cool home accessory to show off to friends.

Project Progression:

This project mostly builds off of the scratch game that I made with the Bug Eat Bugs

game. Although I won't put most of my focus on this game, the joystick will be what has

a dramatic improvement. I feel like my first prototype of the joystick worked poorly. It

was not fun to use, and starting the game was difficult. There were also different hacks

that you could use to cheat the system a little bit. I have designs drawn out for how I

want the joystick to work. I plan on making it easy to move up/down/left/right, and also want the buttons to be easy to access and easy to push.

Materials List:


  • Makey Makey ($50) Bought by Course
  • Raspberry Pi 3 version B($35 + $7.99 shipping)
  • Computer Screen ($6) Thrift Store
  • Mouse ($3) Thrift Store
  • Keyboard ($0) extra at home
  • VGA to HDMI Adapter ($4.99 free shipping)
  • Metal for Joystick ($2) Thrift Store
  • Speakers with aux in ($2) Thrift Store
  • AA Batteries ($0) extra at home
  • Micro SD Card class 10 ($7.97 *not preloaded* free shipping)
  • Copper Tape ($0) Bought by Course
  • Table Top Poppers for Buttons ($0) Extra at home
  • Screws and Nuts ($2.47) Home Depot
  • Wood ($0) Scrap wood at the Woodshop
  • Extension Cord ($3.99) Harbor Freight
  • USB Desk Grommet ($0) extra at home
  • Scrap 3/4" board ($0) scrap at woodshop
  • Sheet of metal - 4"x4" ($0) extra at home
  • Felt ($0) extra at home
  • Hinge ($3.56) Home Depot


  • Soldering Iron and solder
  • Masking Tape
  • Computer
  • Table Saw
  • Chop Saw
  • Router and Table with 3/4" dado bit
  • Nail Gun/Staple Gun with nails/staples
  • Drill with Phillips bit and drill bits
  • Jig Saw
  • Measuring Tape
  • Wood Glue
  • Hole Saw (1" and 2 1/4")
  • Rasp Set
  • Hot Glue Gun with glue sticks
  • Electrical Tape
  • Tin Snips
  • Sharpie
  • Router with flush bit
  • Gel Super Glue

Step 1: Design Your Prototype

Probably the best thing that you can do to start out is to design a prototype. Make sure you know generally how you will be making it. I simply made mine out of paper.

Step 2: Set Up Raspberry Pi

In order to set up a raspberry pi, you will need:

  • Raspberry Pi (I am using model 3 B+)
  • Screen (with HDMI input or Adapter)
  • HDMI Cord
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • micro SD card (use at least class 10 for best results)
  • Power cord
  • Another computer

To begin, start at another computer and download NOOBS on the micro SD card. There are many tutorials online on how to do this (Here is how I did it on a Mac.), and varies depending what machine you are using. Once it is installed, plug the micro SD card into the Raspberry Pi, and wait for everything to load. Once it is up and running, you should get a screen similar to the picture shown. In the menu, you will find a submenu called "Programming" where you will find the Scratch Application pre installed on it. Once Scratch is open, you can open PacMan, Astroids, or Scratch Invaders to make sure that these games work.

Step 3: Build the Box

Now is the time to get the structure of the project built. I have access to a wood shop and a lot of scrap wood, so I made my arcade out of whatever I could find. The better quality box you will make depends on the wood. I used mostly particle board and pine, which will be just fine for my project.

The first place to start is with a sketch of what you want your final project to look like. I drew up a side view of my arcade center. I found that the angle I wanted to use for the screen was a 112.5 degrees in order to see the screen comfortably either standing up or sitting down at a table. This may vary depending on the person, and we may have to change that a little bit still to get better results.

The second step is to make the frame for the screen. This will depend completely on how big a screen you have chosen for the arcade. Make sure that your screen has at least 3/4" of room after the brace is put on the screen so that it will fit in the box best. Once the frame was built, I found some metal braces to make sure that when the screen is in the box, it won't slip out. Pictures of this will be found on a further step.

Next is time to make the box. Following my designs, I came up with these measurements in the picture above. Remember that a lot of these measurements will need alterations depending on the size of the screen/joystick/buttons/speakers/grommet etc. Also, I had some ugly gaps between the wood connections in some parts, so I just got creative in how to cover it up. It doesn't need to be pretty to work.

QUICK TIP: Leave the side panel off until everything gets wired in correctly. It will be easier to work through it if you have better access to the components.

Since I had some spray paint, I used that up and painted it white. Again, it is just for aesthetics.

Step 4: Working With Buttons

The buttons were pretty tricky, but I got it working well. My idea was to get something flexible that you can push down and it will spring back. I thought of table top poppers, and they work really well. Like the diagram shows, if you run some copper tape along the top of the inside of the popper, and put a screw on the inside, you can make a connection with the makey makey. Drill one hole the width of the screw, and as close to it as you can drill another small hole just big enough for some copper tape to go through in the wood control panel.

Quick tip:I had to use super glue to make the copper tape stick to the top of the popper.

After you test to make sure that they will work well together, glue the nut on the inside of the box so you can adjust the height of the screw to preference. Then connect the copper tape to the ground on the Makey Makey, and the screw to the space/click on the Makey Makey. If this works when pressed, use some super glue to glue down the poppers to the wood control panel. Make sure everything works well because it will be hard getting the popper off of the panel once glued.

Step 5: The Joystick

For the joystick all you really need is a metal bar and some sheet metal. Drill a hole in the control panel about an inch in diameter. Then take your sheet metal and draw a circle about 1/2"-3/4" in diameter and draw a cross in the center of it. You can either drill out the hole with a special tool or cut it out with some tin snips which is what I did. It may have been easier to drill it, but you need the right tool for that. Cut out each of the 4 sections on the sheet metal, and cut a little bit around the edges so that when it gets connected they won't touch. Using a rasp to file down the edges can help as well. Make a little flap on each section of metal to connect the alligator clips on the makey makey to each section. In this picture you can see that it has some masking tape holding it together. This helps to glue it on to the inside of the box while retaining it's shape. I used gel super glue and eyeballed it in the center of the circle.

Next was time to glue in the joystick. I made a mistake with this a couple times so I will let you know what not to do. First, thing first, drill a hole in a piece of wood all the way through. Make the hole a little less than 2 times the width of the bar. Use hot glue to make the joystick stay. It naturally wants things to stay in place, and since it is made with plastic it retains it's shape well. Fill in the bottom of the hole with hot glue and put the bar in the middle with it matching the middle of the hole on the control panel. Where I went wrong here was I used way too much hot glue because I was worried about it not holding well. After my first attempt dried, the bar was so hard to move that you had to almost use two hands to get it to move. I ended up chiseling out a lot of glue and wood to loosen it up. I would suggest doing a little bit at a time. Also make sure that there is something to keep the bar in the center of the hole while it is drying. When the glue is hardened, test it out to see if you need more or less glue. Adding more glue is easier than taking glue out. Once that is done, figure out some sort of handle. Mine had a natural handle on it, and I just glued a popper on top to give it a little bit of uniformity.

Finally, set up your Makey Makey. 4 alligator clips are connected to the Makey Makey to the 4 directions on the metal plates, and the metal bar get's connected to the ground. I just used copper tape to connect the bar to the ground from the buttons and that worked well. Give it a quick test and trouble shoot. If the joystick tries moving in all directions that may mean that they are not separated from each other enough. Good luck ripping it off with all that super glue.

Step 6: Speakers

I wanted to make sure I could get some audio working with my Arcade center, so I picked up some cheap speakers at a thrift store for $2. The problem is that they were in an enclosed case. So simply you cut some things out and get everything separated. Make sure that you don't cut any wires like I did. It is a pain to solder some things.

QUICK TIP: I used some hot glue where the wire connects to the circuit board so they don't bend off and loose the connection.

QUICK TIP: mark the speaker wires with different color markers to not get them confused. Do this before you cut the wires initially.

Once the speaker is taken apart, go ahead and test it to make sure it still works. Mine did, so I went to the next step with the speakers, and sliced the wires to connect them with some copper tape. I am using copper tape because it is conductive, and I have some around. You can also use regular wire or even tin foil, but the goal of this is to be able to get the speakers to spread apart so it can connect to both the Raspberry Pi, and to the holes that are cut out in the box.

You will need 4 strands of copper tape running, 2 per speaker. Make sure they are not touching and will reach the box where the speaker control box is at. Put some electrical tape on top to keep it from short circuiting. Use hot glue to glue the speakers to the box, and super glue to glue the hole covers on the outside to keep it clean.

While you are doing this, you can go ahead and put the grommet cap in the box as well.

Step 7: Testing and Finishing

Now that everything is wired, go ahead and set everything up to make sure it works.

  1. Insert the screen
  2. Plug in the Raspberry Pi
  3. Connect the speakers
  4. Connect the Makey Makey to the joystick and buttons

When there are no problems, disconnect as much as you can, and tack on the side panel. You can do this however you want, but I just used some masonite to keep the box a little bit lighter. I put on a board and used a flush bit with a router to make everything flush. You don't have to do it this way obviously, but just make sure it works. Then put on the back door with the hinges and it should be good to get set up all over again.

QUICK TIP: Use felt on the door to keep it from making a loud noise when the door closes.

QUICK TIP: I cut out some hand holds in the side panel to make it easier to cary around.

Now simply turn on the Raspberry Pi (use the mouse and keyboard to set it all up), open up Scratch, open Pacman, and begin playing. You shouldn't need the mouse and keyboard after it is all set up, so you can unplug it and put it off to the side so it doesn't distract you.

Step 8: