OLD BRIDGE — Two years ago, a group of sophomores set out on a project to build an arcade machine.
Last week, the group, now seniors, unveiled the project, which runs 200 games from seven to eight gaming systems, including Space Invaders and Super Mario.
“[Our project] was to produce and design a great gaming system for everyone … something with gaming before our time and some with our current times,” Zak Fugaro, who worked on art and design for the project. “We’ve done everything [from] brainstorming, research to design, the building and the coding and all this together has made this [arcade].”
The project, which took two years to complete, was initiated by the students, who conceptualized it and designed the arcade from scratch with custom cut plywood.
The exterior artwork and design was collaborated with local New Brunswick artist Chris Ernst.
The side panels feature bold pop-art styled game characters, illustrated by Ernst and painted by students, which took more than 40 hours of detailed hand painting.
Along with Zak, Mike Aliperti served as construction engineer, Tom Fenyvesy, electronics, Charles Fries, graphic design, Joe Goldberg, computer engineer, Nic Paravalos, lead designer 3D modeling, and Bryan Martinez, Jon Urbina, Kyle Motley and James Kurtzman, on art and design.
Tom said they integrated music into the arcade utilizing the Spotify app, which can make custom playlists.
“It’s unreal,” said Joe of seeing the finished product of the arcade.
Joe served as computer engineer of the team. He added that he knew some of the programming and software systems beforehand that helped them put together the arcade.
Nic, the 3D modeling lead designer for the team, said by far this was the coolest project he has ever been involved in for high school.
“All the work and energy that we put into the project, it feels satisfying to see the arcade,” he said.
Nic said the team worked mostly in class and sometimes out of school. He said they utilized Google SketchUp to design the 3D model of the arcade.
According to Creative Design teacher Adrian Cline, the goal was to design and produce a modern entertainment center that pays homage to video games and entertainment of yesterday.
The result is a custom designed and fabricated multimedia center combining more than 200 classic video games from 1980 to 2000 with an internet connected music-playing jukebox.
“This was a design challenge where the students researched and brainstormed from scratch,” said Cline, who said there have been little projects done here and there, but never a project on such a large scale as the arcade.
The arcade was 3-D modeled and designed in-house by Nic and Tom. The fabrication was done in partnership with Woodshop Technology, Engineering and Design, Computer Science, and Art III classes.
For the brains of the system, the teens built a custom Windows-based PC while Joe developed the coding in Python from the ground up. Joe developed a custom-designed user interface unifying more than six video game systems, Spotify music integration, and LED lighting, all controlled through the classic arcade button and joystick controls.
Cline said the computer programming for the arcade was a major undertaking. He said the arcade is a throwback to the days before smartphones and the internet, and it has given students a special opportunity to pay homage to the technology before their generation.
“As many of these students are now pursuing careers in video game design, animation, and 3D modeling, this has been an incredibly rewarding and educational team-building experience,” said Cline.
In addition to the arcade design project, the students also unveiled a student-designed, fully automated photo booth, a student-designed, state-of-the-art smart lab, the class’s Slack communications platform, the design of the classroom’s creative space, student photography and design exhibits and the students’ vision for the future of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) education through creative design.