Golf is an obsession for some, and possibly more of a social event for others. Interestingly, dentist Vic Chaney, the creator of this golf-themed marble roller coaster, describes himself as a “lousy golfer.” His wife, however, is an avid golfer, which inspired this excellent contraption.
In this marble run, marbles are lifted to the top of the device, traveling to a man with a bucket who tips it onto the “course,” followed by a driver and a putter. Along the way, the marbles encounter a squirrel and a duck, as well as a green spiral funnel. Finally, a gopher knocks the ball into the hole as seen in the video below.
The machine is powered by two Parallax SX microcontrollers (available, but not manufactured anymore according to Chaney). Four servomotors control the golfers, the ball machine, and the gopher, and linear actuators are used to push the ball into position to be hit.
According to Chaney, “almost all of my electronics knowledge is self taught from books, magazines, and the internet. Dental school taught me a lot about metalworking, casting, soldering, heat treatment, and plastic working.”
I thought it was clever that two decorations on this course actually serve practical purposes. A ball on a tree doubles as a plumb bob as the machine must be level to work correctly, and a seemingly decorative duck that is flipped around by the ball also serves to slow the marble down.
I made a cinematic assumption about where inspiration for the gopher came from, but wasn’t quite correct. According to Chaney, “I have seen Caddy Shack, and think it is hilarious, but I am not sure the gopher came from this. Gophers, squirrels, and geese are everyday hazards on our local golf course, and I bet that every golf course caretaker has had major frustrations with gophers. Billy Murray’s portrayal of this was so funny. We get our inspiration from our imagination and from our life experiences, and it is hard to know what influenced what.”
This fantastic ball run was on display at the Benicia Mini Maker Faire. Be sure to watch the site for updates on next year’s Faire so you don’t miss out!