How to Design a Domino Setup

Dominoes are cousins to playing cards and allow for a variety of games. One of the most popular is to have players draw dominoes and then, in turn, play them so that they cover each other edge-to-edge and form a specified total. The first player to do this wins. These days, dominoes are made of polymer or ceramic clay and come in many different colors and shapes. Some are very colorful and others have a more traditional look. In the past, they have been crafted from natural materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory and dark hardwoods such as ebony, often with contrasting black or white pips inlaid in them.

Unlike the card game of poker, which requires skill to master, domino is not as much of a test of luck. It is a game of strategy, patience and planning. Each set of dominoes has a number of rules that must be followed to ensure that the player is not cheating or taking an unfair advantage. In fact, it is very difficult to cheat when a domino game is played on a large board, because the players can see each other’s tiles and there are usually many rows of dominoes.

A domino is a small, flat rectangular block, about thumbsized, with the face divided into two parts and bearing from one to six dots or spots: 28 such dominoes make up a complete set. Also known as bones, men, pieces or cards, dominoes are used in many games of chance and strategy. They may be arranged in lines and angular patterns, and can be used to construct complex structures such as bridges and arches.

Hevesh has worked hard to develop her domino setups. She follows a version of the engineering-design process to create them. First she considers the theme or purpose of the setup, then brainstorms images that might be associated with it. She then outlines a rough sketch of the design using an engineering drawing program. This helps her visualize the layout of the dominoes and how they might work together.

Once the dominoes are stacked in a pattern, Hevesh then adds the details. She starts with the heaviest, or most valuable, dominoes and works down to the least valuable. Then she continues to add the remaining dominoes until the entire layout is complete.

She says that her most challenging projects involve incorporating many dominoes into one large structure. She works in a small garage, where her grandmother had kept her woodworking tools. Despite the limited space, she manages to cram the drill press, radial arm saw, belt sander and welder into the space. The result is a stunning domino effect.

Stephen Morris, a University of Toronto physicist, says that when a domino is standing upright, it stores potential energy. But as it falls, much of that energy is converted to kinetic energy and transmitted to the next domino in the chain reaction until they all fall over. He says that this principle is at the heart of the domino effect.