Fun with MaKey MaKey

In November, I began a 6-week series called Maker Mondays. The program attracted a small following and has since become so popular that I extended it into June and am even creating a summer Maker camp for teens. Maker Mondays is a program for grades 6-9 and serves around 15 students each week. Every Monday, we learn a new skill or do a new project.

The favorite activity by far has been the MaKey MaKey. MaKey MaKey’s are invention kits that work like simple Arduinos. It consists of a simple board and wires with alligator clips.

The MaKey MaKey

The MaKey MaKey

MaKey MaKey allows any conductive material to work in lieu of a computer keyboard. The front of the board looks like an old Nintendo controller. Alligator clips connect from the board to whatever material you are using, allowing that material to stand in for that particular function (ex: hooking up a banana to the “space” clip will allow that banana to be used instead of the space bar to control the computer). You can hook up to anything conductive, including play-dough, fruits and vegetables, and even people (don’t worry- the current is very low and isn’t dangerous!)

The great thing about this kit is how accessible it is. When I took an Arduino workshop, it took me 2 hours to program a board to make a light blink (your results may vary). However, within five minutes of learning the MaKey MaKey, I was controlling Mario Bros. with play-dough.

MaKey MaKey’s are perfect for a HOMAGO-based program for students. Students can collaborate to make cool stuff, can learn at their own pace, and can achieve results with minimal technology skills.

To start a MaKey MaKey program, I recommend supplying one kit per two students (kits retail for around $50). Ask students to bring laptops from home, or supply them yourself. The kit needs a computer to work (Macs and PC’s both work). Provide students with a variety of supplies: cardboard, conductive tape, play-dough, cheap wire, tape, glue, tinfoil, and whatever else you have around. Here are some projects that our students have done:

Dance Dance Revolution using cardboard, tinfoil, and of course, feet.

Dance Dance Revolution using cardboard, tinfoil, and of course, feet.

A violin using cardboard, tape, and wire.

A violin using cardboard, tape, and wire.

A flight simulator operated by play-dough.

A flight simulator operated by play-dough.

MakeyMakey3

A piano using conductive tape.

You can find simple video games and instruments to use with your MaKey MaKey online, like Mario Bros,’ a virtual piano, and the addictive Flappy Bird‘ (Flappy Bird isn’t any easier with play-dough controllers).

This is definitely my favorite Maker device and I’m happy I can pass it along to all of you. For more Maker ideas, check out our Making in the Library Toolkit.

Support for this program series came from a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

About Jaina Lewis

Teen Services Librarian at The Westport Library in Westport, CT since 2006. Minnesotan at heart. Current chair of Teen Tech Week. @jainalibrarian
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One Comment

  1. Hi,Jaina Lewis,very funny this makey makey.This project is very cheap and practic for stundets,thanks for tutorial also good job.

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