Pre-teen engineer turns cardboard into college fund

A nine-year-old who built a games arcade from cardboard has earned enough cash to fund his way through college.

It’s a story that’s almost too perfect to be true, but if it’s some sort of stunt or hoax, I don’t really want to know.

Caine Monroy first built the arcade last summer as a way to keep busy while hanging around at his father’s auto part store in East LA. The games aren’t electronic, but rather mechanical, with the main materials being cardboard boxes and packing tape.

Playing on the arcade costs $1 for four games, though frankly you’d be a fool to take that option. Instead there’s a $2 fun pass that offers 500 games within a one month period. To prevent counterfeiting, each pass has a short PIN code and a lengthy validation number: the passes can be checked on a security device attached to each game on which you type in the PIN code, press a check key and make sure the displayed number matches that on the pass.

(Spoiler: the device is a calculator and the check key is the square root function.)

The story goes that with the arcade located in an industrial estate and most of Monroy’s father’s business now being done online, there was little passing trade and a man named Nirwan Mullick became the first customer of the arcade when visiting to collect some spare parts in person.

Mullick happens to be a filmmaker and began making a short documentary about the arcade. He attracted some interest from his own online followers, some of whom even organized a “flash mob” where several hundred people visited the arcade last October.

The lengthy editing process is now complete and the documentary debuted online on Monday, since which time it’s attracted nearly 400,000 views at the time of writing.

Seeing the huge interest, Mullick then suggested viewers could donate a dollar towards a college fund for Caine, pondering “Imagine what this kid could build with an Engineering degree.” That appeal smashed an initial target and has so far raised well over $70,000 and looks likely to hit a near target of $100,000, designed to fund a full four-year degree.

(Image credit: Caine’s Arcade Facebook page)

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