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Make at Questacon in Canberra

Teacher Workshop 3: Makey Makey

This activity is a guide for running a Makey Makey activity with your students, based on Questacon Smart Skills Teacher Workshop 3. Potential curriculum links are provided at the end of this document, but this activity can be used in many ways across stages 3 to 5. There are many cross-subject links that can be explored through this activity which can focus on digital technologies and coding or tend towards STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths).

In this workshop, participants use simple materials and a Makey Makey to build a peg piano, augmenting a computer based keyboard into physical objects.  Makey Makey is an invention kit that turns everyday objects into touchpads and combines them with your computer. It can be used for art, engineering, and everything in between. The product name comes from the combination of two words: Make + Key = Makey Makey!

The activity is quite directed and doesn’t leave much room for inquiry and design. However, completing this activity will help people to realize the potential of the Makey Makey. The possibilities with the Makey Makey are almost endless and it can be a great way to encourage creativity and enhance engagement for a range of topics, especially digital technologies and programming.

Resources and requirements

The main requirement for this workshop is a Makey Makey. These can be purchased online from a range of websites. You should choose a supplier that best meets your requirements. We have previously sourced ours from:

When using the Makey Makey, you will need a laptop or computer to plug it into via the USB port

For this activity, you will also need:

  • A graphite (lead) pencil and paper
  • 3 x large popsticks/tongue depressors
  • 3 x small popsticks
  • 6 x wooden pegs
  • 2 x wooden beads, slightly larger in diameter than the width of the peg
  • Copper tape (about 5mm across)
    • This can be bought from online suppliers, or from hardware stores where it is sold as “Snail And Slug Barrier”

 

Makey Makey Peg Piano Activity

1

Title: Makey Makey plugged in to the laptop - Description: A small red a silver circuit board plugged into a laptop with a red USB cord

Start by plugging your Makey Makey into your computer via USB, using the supplied red cord. The Makey Makey is double-sided, but in this activity we will use the side with the large arrows and circles.

2

Title: Makey Makey Piano - Description: A laptop screen showing a small part of a piano keyboard

In your internet browser, open up www.makeymakey.com/piano

Test out the piano by pressing the arrow keys on your keyboard. Can you hear the notes?

3

Title: Pencil piano - Description: A series of pairs of circles connected by thick lines drawn in lead pencil

Draw a series of up to six “barbells” on your paper with the graphite pencil. One end of the barbell should be close to the edge of the page. Make sure you colour the barbells in solidly so there are no gaps.

Connect one crocodile clip to one of the “Ground” locations on the Makey Makey. You will need to hold the other end of this crocodile clip while playing your piano.

 

4

Title: Pencil piano plugged in - Description: Crocodile clips are connected between a small circuit board and pencil drawn barbells on paper

Connect the other crocodile clips from one end of the barbells to the large arrows and circles on the Makey Makey.

Tap the other end of the pencil barbells while holding on to the ground crocodile clip. You should hear your pencil piano play!

If your piano doesn’t play, check your speakers are on and you’ve connected the wires properly. You may also need to go over some of the pencil shading to ensure a complete circuit.

5

Title: Pegs and copper tape - Description: Five wooden pegs with strip[s of copper tape. One peg already has copper tape stuck on it.

Put the pencil piano aside and lay out your pegs for the peg piano. Cut five or six lengths of copper tape that are about the length of a peg.

6

Title: Copper tape peg - Description: A wooden peg with copper tape on one side is being squeezed by a hand.

Peel back the protective layer on the copper tape and stick the tape onto the peg. Make sure the tape goes all the way over one end of the peg leg. Repeat for all your pegs.

7

Title: Popsticks - Description: Two large popsticks, laid together horizontally, are stuck together by three smaller popsticks laid vertically

Take two of the large popsticks and lay them flat, side by side. Hot glue the three small popsticks onto the pair of larger ones, distributed evenly across.

8

Title: Making the peg piano - Description: Five pegs with copper tape are stuck onto a pair of large popsticks

Flip the popsticks over, so you have a flat surface to work on.

Glue the wooden beads on the end of the large popsticks.

Glue the pegs across the popsticks with the copper tape facing up. Make sure about 1-2cm of the peg is poking off the end of the larger popsticks.

9

Title: Large popstick - Description: A large popstick is half covered with two strips of copper tape

Take the remaining large popstick and place two strips of copper tape on one half of it.

10

Title: Peg piano - Description: A large popstick is placed on top of a series of five pegs affixed to another large popstick

Glue the remaining large popstick on top of the two beads, so that there is a small gap between the pegs and the popstick.

11

Title: Connecting the peg piano - Description: A small circuit board is connected by crocodile clips to a peg covered in copper tape.

Unclip the Makey Makey from your pencil piano and clip it into your peg piano. The ground wire should connect to the copper tape on the large top popstick, while the individual keys connect to the pegs.

Press the pegs to play your piano. Can you play a tune?

 

 

 

Curriculum Links

Australian Curriculum: Design and Technology

Digital Technologies Processes and Production Skills Strands

Using the Makey Makey with programming tools such as Scratch, would meet the curriculum content listed below. Makey Makey gives students a way to extend their digital programming into the physical world. The Makey Makey also forces students to think about user-centered design, as they create physical objects to control the computer.

Years 3 and 4

Implement simple digital solutions as visual programs with algorithms involving branching (decisions) and user input (ACTDIP011)

Years 5 and 6

Implement digital solutions as simple visual programs involving branching, iteration (repetition), and user input (ACTDIP020)

Years 7 and 8

Implement and modify programs with user interfaces involving branching, iteration and functions in a general-purpose programming language (ACTDIP030)

Years 9 and 10

Implement modular programs, applying selected algorithms and data structures including using an object-oriented programming language (ACTDIP041)

Other subjects

This project is a simple and easy way to use the Makey Makey and augment your computer keyboard into larger physical forms, but there are many more ways to use the Makey Makey to enhance lessons in a range different subject areas. For some ideas, follow the links below.

  • This YouTube playlist shows many different ways to use the Makey Makey and might provide some inspiration.
  • Makey Makey have their own lesson guides, with suggestions for all age groups. While this is based around the US School Curriculum, the ideas are still applicable in Australia
  • Makey Makey also have their own Educators Forum where educators can share the ideas that they’ve developed for using Makey Makey in their own classroom

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