Sixth Grade Class Works to Restore Old Electric Football Toy


The Gotham board as it was.

The Gotham board as it was.

Sixth Grade Class Works to Restore Old Electric Football Toy

By Caleb Schneider

Mustang Express

“This is so awesome!” said the sixth grade teacher Mr. Derrick Gross about his class’ new football field.

Electric football, vibrating football, or miniature football are all names for one game.  Yes, it is a football game, but it is much more.  It is a strategy game.

Electric football is a board game that vibrates when you turn it on.  There are small players that have little teeth, called prongs, coming out of the bottom of their bases.  This is what determines the direction they move when the motor is turned on and the game vibrates.  To move the ball you have to set up a formation, designate a player to carry the ball or catch a pass, and align a blocking scheme that will allow your offense to gain yards against a defense that is trying to stop you, just like real football!  When both teams are lined up you turn the game on and it starts to vibrate.  The players start to move and they keep going until the player with the ball is tackled, scores, or runs out of bounds.

The sixth grade class at Northome Elementary School is rebuilding one of these games.  Their teacher Mr. Gross bought the game on eBay.  It wasn’t in the best condition when it arrived; in fact, it was severely damaged and didn’t work.  The sixth graders are not only rebuilding it, they are replacing all of the broken parts, and adding a few custom improvements.

Mr. Gross introduced his class to miniature football.  He owns a few of these games and brought them in for the class to see and play with.  “The kids really took to the game,” said Gross, “So I decided to make use of a bad eBay transaction.”

One thing they are upgrading are the flags.  The flags fly over the stadium.  There Is supposed to be sixteen flags; one for each of the teams who were playing in the NFL when the board was new in the 1950’s. The few flags that survived are all worn and don’t have their original color.  The students have made new flag poles and with the help of the art teacher are making new flags using graphic arts software.

The board disassembled and ready for refurbishing.

The board disassembled for refurbishing.

Another part that they will have to replace is the playing surface.  The original field is wood covered with paper but both had water damage.  Mr. Gross knows a guy that designs custom field covers.  Right now he is having a new cover printed for the field.  The new cover has all of field numbers and end zones.  It looks just like the original only is much more detailed; right down to the blades of grass.  The players also needed to be replaced.  The class is getting some and plan to paint them by hand themselves.  They are going to acquire them from eBay and some other guys Mr. Gross knows who do miniature football as a hobby.

The class hopes to be done with the stadium this week so that they can start their work on the flags and figures.  So far they have sanded the wood and are in the process of cleaning, polishing, and waxing all the metal.  They had to clean all of the parts to the field using everything from graffitte romover to WD-40.

The class is learning a lot during the reconstruction.  For example, they learned that when some cleaning supplies are mixed, bad things can happen!    They are leaning how to paint very small yet life like figures, apply the cover without leaving any bubbles or wrinkles, and about how the vibrations of the motor actually work to move the figures.  This is necessary to learn because they even had to clean, repair, and remount the motor which had fallen off in shipping.

The class also found out why the board has dead zones.  They found out that the whole board vibrates but there can be spots that don’t have as much vibrates or any at all.  These can be minimized by remounting the motor in the ideal position.  The class is leaning about wave actions in order to help find that perfect spot.  They are also having to do a lot of things that they hadn’t planned and prepared for like removing dents, grinding rust, and rebuilding scoreboard dials.

In addition, the class is writing a daily journal of what they do when they go to work on the project.  Each time they work two kids are assigned to take pictures and write about the work done that day.  At the end of the week each student has to write captions for a couple of the pictures that were taken.  After the students complete their writing Mr. Gross helps them edit their work and publishes it on the internet.  The website is and is home to the Miniature Football Coaches Association (MFCA).   To see the students’ journal and pictures of their progress go to the forum and find the thread titled Miniature Football Class Project.

That’s right, there is an association of dedicated and talented people that love miniature football so much they started their own association.  There are actual leagues and Mr. Gross is part of it all.

The Miniature Football Coaches Association is a 501c7 not-for-profit organization the purpose of which is to promote the hobby of miniature football and to encourage participation of coaches across the country.  Its motto is, “Unity, Integrity and Fellowship.”

The class is hoping to get done with everything by the end of April so they have time to set up their own league and play actual games on their newly refurbished board.  “We’ll bring some math in to this as well,” said Mr. Gross.  “The kids will have to keep statistics if they want to play games.”


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Comments (5)

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  1. Lynn says:

    Awesome job! That is a beautiful field and I know a lot of the MFCA members are not only excited for you, but are actually green with envy that you have restored such a classic that surely would of ended up in the recycling bin otherwise!

  2. RavennaAl says:

    This is what we need, getting kids involved in the hobby. They will not only learn about strategy for football, but also sportsmanship, construction skills, artistic development and a little physics as well. Now if we could only get get this idea spread out across the country…

  3. detroitchild says:

    Great job class! After you’re done with the field I hope to see updates on your leagues.

  4. bluegnuoy says:

    Well done well writtien. I am realy looking forward to the finished product. I am so happy to see young people enjoying this hobby. Goood luck with your league and may have a better win lose record then mine =)

  5. eflfanatic says:

    Simply awesome. Great to see a group of kids get so involved with this project.

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