Thursday at Pinball Expo began as it always does with the Stern Pinball factory tour.
At 9am the bright yellow school buses arrived and show guests who had purchased the tour as part of their package or as a standalone purchase boarded the buses for the ride to the Stern factory around 25 minutes away.
The school buses arrive
Stern Pinball factory tour guests board the bus for the trip to Elk Grove Village
When they arrived, guests entered the Stern building to congregate in the area usually reserved for staff dining.  Here they were welcomed to the factory by Jody Dankberg, Stern’s Senior Director of Licensing and New Business.
Jody greets tour guests in the lobby area
Jody then passed the microphone to George Gomez who introduced several members of the Stern Pinball team.
George also welcomes guests alongside a cardboard Gary Stern
George and ‘Gary’
Then the tour began, with guests being shown around the factory in groups of ten.
The tour begins
While we returned to the hotel to prepare for the seminars, M.G. Brown. took these pictures of the tour.
The first guests on the tour
Lead programmer Dwight Sullivan leads this tour group
Dwight explains how the wiring looms are made
The bare black cabinets come in and have their game-specific decals applied
Machine assemblies are built ready for addition to the playfield
Completed machines are tested
Finished games are boxed, ready to ship
Boxed games awaiting shipping
At 1:30pm, the seminar schedule began.
The first seminar featured Romain Fontaine from Team Pinball talking about the making of the company’s first title, The Mafia.
Romain Fontaine
He explained how the conceived the idea of building their own machine and how they went about it, designing their own hardware, getting the playfield design from a designer in Hungary, Balint, the control system they created using a Raspberry Pi, the wiring under the playfield and the testing procedure they use once the playfield is complete.  He stressed how they tried to keep things simple and clean inside the game.
Romain explained how they got the sound and music and then built ten sample machines before going public, inviting Pinball News to help launch the project.

Next up was Jim Schelberg from the