Introduce Coding using a MaKey MaKey and Scratch

A MaKey MaKey is a very simple to use piece of kit which can be used to add a little bit more fun to a class coding project.

The MaKey Makey is a bare bones circuit board that connects to your computer via USB. There are7 terminals for attaching electrical wires to it. These are arranged like an old games controller – with up/down/left/right arrows and also spacebar and left click. A strip along the bottom allows for another wire to connect it to Earth.

Like this:

Makey Makey Demo

What is fun is that you can then connect anything to the other ends of the wires and use them to control any application that uses the arrow keys and spacebar. In the example here, I’m going to connect it to some coins, but you could use anything that’s slightly conductive such as fruit!

Makey Makey Demo

With the controls in place now I needed something to control. This is where you can be quite creative and involve the children in a little coding using platforms such as Scratch. For the demo I created a very simple program in Scratch that played different sounds when each of the arrow buttons and the spacebar were pressed. The sound effects were downloaded and then added to the Scratch project.

Like this:

Scratch code

You can see the completed Scratch program here. I’ll also embed it below. Hit the arrow keys on your keyboard to make it play. It’s not brilliant, but it’ll do for the purposes of this demo.

With the MaKey MaKey connected you should then be able to control the drums by touching each of the coins, or whatever else you’ve decided to connect.

I’ve made a short video which demonstrates this:

You could even combine this with Conductive Paint to create some very fun effects.

While you could control your program with the arrow keys, the use of the MaKey Makey adds an additional tactile component. There are other cross-curricular ways you could use this. For example, go take a look at the BrainPOP UK blog for another idea on how to use a Makey Makey as part of a science lesson looking at conduction.

You can find out more about MaKey MaKey’s via their website here:

If you’ve used the MaKey Makey, let me know what you think in the comments below.

And for staff training CPD on Coding with Scratch, or other software platforms, please get in touch.

Update Feb 2014: Here’s the drumkit with bananas, as modelled with one of my PGCE groups today :)


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Author: Danny Nicholson

Danny is an author, Science teacher, ICT Consultant, PGCE lecturer and computing / interactive whiteboard trainer. He has delivered training courses across the UK, in Europe, and in Canada. Please get in touch with your training requests.

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