SCRATCHing the surface with Makey Makey

It was all about repurposing, playing, creating, and making during Week 2 in CEP811. As educators, repurposing is part of our normal routine. We are constantly striving to find different ways to teach our students and enhance their learning experiences. We may use unconventional techniques to teach a fundamental concept and by doing that, it captures the student’s attention in a way that an ordinary technique may not. When students, and even the teacher, are allowed to play, create, and experience “making”, great things happen! Repurposing traditional methods and ways of doing things can lead to enhanced engagement, focus, excitement, creativity, and learning.

“Warning! Extended usage may result in creative confidence.” ~ Makey Makey

I chose the Makey Makey invention kit to experience “making”. I have to admit; at first glance I wasn’t feeling too confident as the statement above on the box stated. I thought to myself, “This is how students may feel the first time they are presented with something new that’s out of their comfort zone. I get it!” I teach students that range from 16 – 65 years of age so the experience of diving right into things may be different than that of elementary or even middle school age students. Taking the “research, learn, play, create, and then make” approach is where it started.

The Makey Makey Invention Kit

  1. Open the box and examine the contents, get a feel for what’s inside.
    Makey Makey contents
  2. Watch a short video that provides project ideas for the maker kit and demonstrates some of the things that you can do with Makey Makey:
    MaKey MaKey – An Invention Kit for Everyone from jay silver on Vimeo.
  3. Visit the Makey Makey website and review the Quick Start Guide for instructions on how to connect the kit to your computer (connection instructions are also located inside the kit’s box). There is a wealth of useful information at your fingertips.
  4. The set up is very easy, just plug the USB into your computer and the other end into the board and you should see it light up!Connecting Makey Makey
  5. Next, connect the clips to the earth, arrow, space, and click keys on the Makey Makey board. Connect the other end of the clips to different objects such as a piece of fruit, a vegetable, coins, etc. to test out the kit’s functionality and see it in action (don’t forget to hold the earth clip to ground yourself). I initially used coins and two mechanical pencils for the controller keys, opened up an empty text document to test the space key first to make sure things were working correctly. Then I downloaded the Google Earth app to my computer and tested out the arrow and click keys as I walked through Paris using coins and pencils.Coins as controllers walking through Paris.
  1. Once everything is connected, you’re ready to start playing and creating! Peruse the Feature Creations gallery on the Makey Makey website and watch some of the videos to spark ideas for your creation(s). Have fun and play!

I started to think about how I could use the invention kit in the courses that I teach. I teach web programming courses that deal with typing a lot of code so it didn’t seem very practical to use the kit for that purpose. But, I also teach a Computer and Programming Principles course and a portion of that course explores different fields in IT (information technology) – a perfect opportunity for exploration and for students to gain experience using a hands-on approach!

After further research (Googling), I came across Scratch, a free tool that can be used “to program your own interactive stories, games, and animations”. Scratch works very well with Makey Makey too! A great combination for exploring programming fundamentals with the use of an invention kit connected to a computer. Winning!

Scratch has a database of over 1,000+ Makey Makey projects that you can review and “remix” (a Week 1 topic). I chose to remix the Makey Makey Drum Machine project from the database as a starting point to test my current set up to see if things were functional. All systems go!

Remix option inside Scratch!

Next, I made a trip down to my basement and searched for new controller objects to use with my kit and found the following:

  • A wall coat hanger with old door knobs that I had made years ago
  • A tin measuring cup that my grandma used to use
  • Two packs of trading cards in the aluminum foil packs

I connected the new objects to the maker board. Since the clips were not large enough to clip around the base of the door knobs, I had to wrap aluminum foil strips around each base of the door knob and then connect the clip to the foil in order to make the connection.

Making the connections!

I used the remixed Drum Machine project as a point of reference and then created my own project in Scratch (Makey Makey Animal Sounds) using animal images and animal sounds from the built-in Scratch library.

Makey Makey Animals Sounds Scratch Project

Using scripting techniques in Scratch, I programmed the arrow images and space image to change color and play the appropriate animal sound when activated by the Makey Makey board. In my case, a different sound was controlled by squeezing the base of each door knob and tapping the tin measuring cup. I also programmed each animal image to increase and decrease in size when the appropriate controller was activated. Please note that I did not use the click controller hooked up to the baseball cards for this project. I could have easily added another animal image and sound along with scripting, but chose to use only the arrow and space controllers for this project.

Scripting in Scratch
I encountered very few road bumps along the way as I learned how to use Scratch and how to get things functioning correctly with the kit. The end result was a functional Scratch project that interacted with the Makey Makey controllers and played animals sounds based on which controller was activated. Cool stuff!

Scratch & Makey Makey

“The world is your construction kit!” ~ Makey Makey

The Makey Makey controllers and Animal Sounds Scratch project in action!

The multimodal activity involving the Maker project emphasized the importance and necessity of using various elements such as: the Makey Makey invention kit, video, audio, online resources, everyday objects, and online development tools as part of a collaborative process that explored creative thinking, the excitement of “making”, and enhanced learning.

The use of written instructions, images, and video commentary  were used as multimodal elements. As the reader reads through the blog post, an image is presented for reference. The video provided demonstrates the entire process from start to finish and can be used to provide additional clarity and reference.


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