News and events

Maker{Futures} team 'tinker time' - MaKey MaKey

Our Makey Makey workshop was the latest in a series of team skill-builder sessions, where we make time to explore, experiment and share knowledge.

In October we looked at coding with Scratch and last month we experimented with MaKey MaKey and discussed how to use this within schools for cross-curricular STEAM based projects.



What is Makey Makey?

Makey Makey is a circuit board that you plug into your computer and it acts like a keyboard. The touch pads can be connected to items that have some conductivity and this means everyday objects can be turned into game controllers and musical instruments! There are six inputs on the front of the board, which can be attached via crocodile clips (or any other method you can think of). There are another 12 inputs on the back, 6 for keyboard keys, and 6 for mouse motion, which you can access with a jumper wire (included in the box).

Get started with Makey Makey Plug & Play Apps

Firstly, we explored the app ‘Is it conductive?’ to test the conductivity of the items around us. This app is brilliant for introducing circuits, conductors and insulators in primary schools. Check out a lesson plan on the Makey Makey website.

Next, we used the ‘Piano’ app to create our own piano keys with Play-Doh. This developed our understanding of Makey Makey because it used all of the keys on the board. Remember, you always need to connect to 'Earth' because electricity is a closed loop. However, instead of holding Earth we made a conductive bangle with kitchen foil. Think of different materials that you could use for Earth?

Creating a Pressure Switch

We learnt how to create a pressure switch using cardboard and foil. This removed the need to hold down the EARTH key while we played ‘Makey Makey Soccer’. When the switch was pressed, the two strips of tin foil touched and the circuit was complete (i.e. you can shoot for the goal). We used Play-Doh to create arrow keys!

Creating a pressure switch can help children to understand how electrical items in the world around us function. It’s the same technology that is found in a keyboard or a doorbell.

Storytelling with Makey Makey

Another avenue we explored was storytelling. This would be relevant for Early Years Practitioners wishing to bring new dimensions to their teaching of fairy tales or other KS1/KS2 literacy units. We made pencil drawings (soft pencils like 6B and up work well) and used crocodile clips to connect them to different keys on the Makey Makey. We then used the programme Scratch to add code to the different Makey Makey keys and had lots of fun recording our own sounds. This gave our drawings sound effects when the shaded pencil areas were touched. You can find the ‘Makey Makey extension’ in Scratch.

Paper circuits

Not only can the Makey Makey receive inputs from all sorts of objects, but it can output signals back into the world too. Look at the back of your Makey Makey and place a jumper wire (the small white wire in your kit) into the "KEY OUT" pin. Attach a crocodile clip to the other end of the jumper wire and clip it to the long leg of an LED and attach the short leg to the Earth on either the back or front of the board.

We used the ‘out’ key to light up an LED. This involved making a simple paper circuit powered by Makey Makey and using copper tape or foil.

There are so many uses for Makey Makey and lots of ways to explore it within the school curriculum! Draw big buttons on paper, make a fruit cocktail piano or use Play-Doh to play your favourite online game.

Tag us on Twitter @Maker_Futures and Instagram and let us know what you have been creating!