How an Engineer Designs a Domino Setup

Domino is a game played by two or more players. It involves laying down tiles that each have on one or more ends the number of dots (or “pips”) shown on the other end, or a blank side. The value of each tile is then determined as it is matched with other tiles that have the same number on one or more ends. The end with the highest number of pips determines which player begins a domino chain by playing the first tile.

The word domino comes from a Latin term meaning “falling forward.” It refers to the way a domino piece can knock over a row of adjacent pieces. When a domino falls, it transfers its potential energy to the following pieces that form the line of play, which then transforms into kinetic energy and is transferred further down the line until the last piece falls.

When Lily Hevesh was a young girl, she grew up playing domino with her family. Her grandparents had the classic 28-piece set, and she remembers setting them up in straight or curved lines and flicking the first domino to watch it fall. Then she started making her own creations. Now 20, Hevesh is a professional domino artist who creates mind-blowing setups for movies, TV shows and events—including the Katy Perry tour.

She follows a version of the engineering-design process when she plans her projects, which starts with considering a theme or purpose for the domino installation. Then she brainstorms images or words that will help bring the project to life. She also decides on a color scheme to give the dominoes a consistent look.

Then Hevesh moves on to the details, like how many dominoes will be needed and what kinds of shapes and textures will work best. And, of course, she has to plan for unforeseen problems and contingencies.

After analyzing her plans, she begins drafting the layout. She then makes a prototype using paper and cardboard, which she tests to make sure the pieces are durable enough. Finally, she creates the final design in polymer clay and bakes it in a 3D printer.

In the past, dominoes were made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or a dark hardwood such as ebony. Modern sets may be made of other natural materials such as stone; metals like brass or pewter; ceramic clay; or even frosted glass.

Often, dominoes are sold in sets of twenty-four or fifty-four, depending on the size and complexity of the games you intend to play. Larger sets are also available, but they require much more skill and time to master than smaller ones. It is also possible to buy individual dominoes in a variety of different colors and finishes.