Today I had the chance to play with a MaKey MaKey. What is a MaKey MaKey you ask? Well according to their website… “A MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between.”
We had gotten a few of these at my work and I asked if I could play around with it to get an idea of what it can do. It is a pretty impressive idea. You take a simple interface such as a keyboard and mouse, strip it down to just a small circuit board. Get some alligator clips and the ideas are endless.
My first thought was to make some sort of game controller. I try to be crafty but sometimes I don’t hit my expectations. This might have been one of those times but still, the results are pretty cool. So I gathered up some extra cardboard from a Frozen toy, Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil, some Play-Doh, and the MaKey MaKey. I planned out how everything would layout on the cardboard. I did however did not account for the fact that whatever layout I do, I need to do it backwards so it appears the correct way on the front of the controller. I forgot that part so my controls are on the reversed sides of where they should be.
Once I had everything planned out I used the aluminum foil and made my pathways. This was pretty simple. I used clear tape to get everything secured. I also poked a small hole through the cardboard where the Play-Doh would attach to the foil.
If you do not have any foil you could use the lead from a pencil. However, I found that using it with the cardboard was not conductive enough for the MaKey MaKey. Paper worked fine, but not the cardboard so much. Which is a shame because I had originally planned to use pencil lead but I had to throw an audible and use some aluminum foil instead.
I also made what I call a “power ring”. For the MaKey MaKey to work properly you have to complete a full circuit. So you have to hold a grounding alligator clip. I found it easier to manipulate everything if I just take a ring of foil and attach the clip to that and then put the ring on my finger, hence “power ring”.
Now that I had my power ring and foil secured to the cardboard I needed to attach my alligator clips to the board and the MaKey MaKey. The MaKey MaKey is labeled so it is best to match that up with your labels on your cardboard leads. Did I mention it’s important to label? If you didn’t label, go ahead and do that now.
With everything labeled and attached it was time to get my controller buttons ready. I used two colors of Play-Doh and molded them into a few different arrows and circles. Then I attached the Play-Doh to the foil sticking out from the holes I poked earlier.
My controller is now complete. I plug in the USB cable to my computer and wait for the basic drivers to load. I fire up an emulator with Tetris running and see if it works. I configure the emulator to use my controller and I try it out. Success! Everything works! So after a few rounds of Tetris I get out the GoPro and record a video of everything you just read. Abby even stopped in to give the new controller a try. Check it out below!
Have you used a MaKey MaKey and made something cool? Tell me about it in the comments below! You can also check out some other really cool projects using things like bananas, humans, stairs, and more! Check them out here in the MaKey MaKey gallery!