Friday night I set up the framework and elevators before dinner, then started working on track after dinner. After assessing the space, I went with a lightning bolt, set diagonally along a wall, which left most of the room for gaming. The elevators were at the center corners of the machine, with their catch tracks running to the opposite ends of the machine I didn’t make as much progress as I might have liked, due to the assistance of two cute little redheaded girls.
Saturday morning I finished tying one side together with a triple loop-de-loop and a complex trampoline, which gradually drew in kids and parents, along with a couple of other like-minded souls. By 2pm it was going well enough that I felt I could take a break; when I came back around 5:00, the machine had evolved.
Sunday featured more gradual evolution and bug hunting, mostly by the kids but with help from some of the adults. I mostly looked in on it between running a LARP and an INWO event.
Monday morning I tweaked a couple of rough spots, which drew in more helpers — I may have convinced a couple of parents to go hunting for used sets on eBay for their kids. Monday afternoon we broke down the machine and packed it back into the van for the trip home.
I took my Chaos Machine to Tad and Craig’s Excellent Party, and had a blast. There was lots of interest from adults as well as children, and I’m definitely going to take the machine back next year.
We arrived at the hotel around 5:00pm, and after some negotiation with the staff, got the machine into the function space. I started off with a framework that was about 7 feet long, one foot wide, and roughly five feet high. I put a screw elevator at one end, and a chain elevator at the other, with collector track feeding each elevator. Then I started with some simple runs and stunts (a double loop-de-loop for one side, a simple trampoline for the other). Working alone, that took much of Friday night (with breaks for dinner and socializing).
When I came back after breakfast Saturday morning, people were already playing with the machine, making the runs more interesting (complicated) and tweaking things. This continued off and on throughout the day on Saturday, and again on Sunday. Saturday afternoon I replaced the screw elevator with another chain elevator (the 9-segment screw was prone to jamming), and the double loop got downsized to a single loop, and eventually removed, again due to reliability concerns.
It took about an hour on Sunday night to pack everything up again (not including delays due to socializing). Having individual bins for each of the different types of parts really made it easy to clean up, and stacking the bins in the tubs made them easy to move (the tubs fit nicely onto the hotel carts). I know I’ve got some cleanup to do (there was the expected amount of breakage over the course of the weekend), but for now the machine is stored in my garage.
There were a lot of small children, but for the most part they were well behaved. The hard part was convincing their parents that neither I nor the Chaos Machine were babysitters. I found it odd that after a while most of the kids were referring to the balls as ‘chaos’ and that adding more balls to the machine was ‘adding more chaos’. A couple of times I had to remind the young kids that the machine was fragile, and twice I had to explain that the support tubes weren’t intended to be used to make rifles or swords. All in all, the kids were well behaved … for kids.
Back in March I put together a small chaos machine to use as a test-bed for the work I was doing on the Chaos Controller. At one point I made a short video and uploaded it to YouTube; here it is:
The chain lift carries balls up to the top of the machine, after which they hit a pendulum switch and go either right or left. If they go right, they hit a xylophone key, then go down a steep slope to the loop-de-loop. If they go left, they get dropped onto a trampoline, and then bounced into a catch basket. Either way, they end up on the catch track at the bottom, and return to the chain lift.
You’ll notice that during the video, several of the balls leave the track. That’s because the loop-de-loop in my set was warped — it’s pinched together at the top of the loop, causing balls to either stick, drop, or fly off the track. Now that I have several sets, this won’t be a problem.