Introduction: Combining MakeyMakey, CircuitScribe and Scratch to Create Art

Picture of Combining MakeyMakey, CircuitScribe and Scratch to Create Art

Many valuable Instructables have been written about MakeyMakey, CircuitScribe, and Scratch. Once you have mastered the basics of each, you can begin to combine them into even more useful projects! This project combines all three. My daughter and I created this project to demonstrate one possible combination. We just hope that it's a useful combination.

Never heard of them? Here's an introduction to the introduction. :-) CircuitScribe is a suite of products that enable beginners to test out electric circuit ideas. It includes a pen that draws conductive ink. Electricity flows along the ink, and through the circuit elements supplied in the products. (This project does not use any of the circuit elements.) MakeyMakey is a product that translates "on" and "off" signals into codes that a computer "sees" as computer keyboard keystrokes. Finally, Scratch is a programming environment designed to help people - especially younger kids - have fun while learning the basic of computer programming.

If you haven't heard of them, you might want to check out Instructables specific to them - there are plenty here!

Why combine them? Each of those tools achieves a few specific goals. CircuitScribe carries electricity around on a hard surface, like paper. MakeyMakey turns an electric signal into a sequences of ones and zeroes that a computer interprets as keyboard keypresses, and Scratch can turn keypresses into motion on its "stage."

The real goal of this project was to demonstrate the ability to combine these tools. With them, you are limited more by your imagination then anything else!

However, the project could allow a choreographer to control a simulated dancer's movements, just by tapping on a piece of paper. Tap in one spot, and the dancer jumps into the air and lands again. Tap in a different spot, and the dancer performs a pirouette.

This Instructable includes pictures of the circuits and a description of them, but we assume that you have previous experience with MakeyMakey and Scratch. Later, we use a video to show just the key part of the Scratch project that accepts keyboard (and MakeyMakey!) input which controls a dancer. A link to the Scratch project is provided later so that you can see the way that it all works together.

Step 1: CircuitScribe Tap Pads

Picture of  CircuitScribe Tap Pads

Moving the dancer starts with the user tapping a spot or line on a piece of paper. In the following picture, you can see three silver lines, with an alligator clip attached to one end of each line. Each line was drawn with a CircuitScribe pen. We found that the ink does not flow fast enough that we could consistently draw a long continuous line - small blank spots are left on the paper, and the electricity can't jump across those blanks. So plan to go over the lines two or more times. You can save some ink by looking for little gaps and filling them in, but that isn't always enough.

The middle line is labeled "Restart" - it's easier to see in the second picture, which is just a zoomed-in version of the first picture. Tapping that line ("tap pad") will return the on-screen dancer to her original position. The other lines will be named "Split" - to make the dancer do a split - and "Tilt Jump", etc.

To complete this step, draw lines and label them with the dance moves you want the dancer to do.

Step 2: MakeyMakey: Converting Electrons Into Letters and Numbers

Picture of MakeyMakey: Converting Electrons Into Letters and Numbers

As we mentioned earlier, the purpose of MakeyMakey is converting small electric signals into the ones and zeroes that the computer interprets as numbers and letters. This step connects those "tap pads" to the MakeyMakey circuit board, which then sends the correct pattern of zeroes and ones to the computer's USB port.

Assuming you've used MakeyMakey before, this step is straightforward. For our purposes, it converts each "tap pad" into a letter, number, or space. Each of those will be interpreted by the Scratch program into a movement of the dancer.

Even if you're new to MakeyMakey, this step is not difficult. Each jumper cable (those wires with alligator clips at the ends) should "eat" the edge of the paper with the ink lines at one end. The clip's "mouth" must make contact with the ink, for electricity to flow. The other end of the cable gets attached to the appropriate point on the MakeyMakey circuit board. (See the pictures at the top of this script.)

You will need to do a little bit of "data management." It may be helpful to write a chart that "maps" the label on each ink line - the dance moves - to a particular letter or number. For example, you might choose the letter 'S' for Split.

Step 3: Scratch: Dancing on 1's and 0's

Picture of Scratch: Dancing on 1's and 0's

If you have used these tools even a little bit, the last step will take the most time, but it's the most fun! You finally get to see the dancer move, and you get to decide what she (or he) will look like.

If you have written Scratch projects before, you may only need to watch the video below, and then review the project.

Each Scratch project starts with choosing a background and the "costumes" for the sprites. A "costume" isn't clothing, it's what the sprite looks like. For this project, the costumes are the dancer in different positions. Fortunately, the Scratch library provides a basic set of dancers in a few positions. We copied some of them and modified them to make all of the positions that we needed. You can choose any set of costumes you want, or draw your own, or, if you're a dancer, you can have a friend take pictures of you in different poses and import them into Scratch.

We chose a backdrop and costumes, and created clickable sprites (buttons). The user can click on the buttons, or type letters on the keyboard, or use the tap pads described above. (See first picture at the top of this step.)

After you have at least a few of the costumes that you want to use, you can begin writing scripts for the Ballerina sprite and the button sprites. Here is an example of a script for button sprite named "Split". It simply responds to those two actions - although one of those actions ("press W") can be achieved by using the keyboard, or a tap pad that you made earlier in this Instructable. (See the two brief scripts at the top of this step.)

Those two scripts broadcast the message "Split". A script for the Ballerina sprite simply changes the costume from the current costume to the "ballerina-c" costume. (Click on the last picture for this step.)

Step 4: Putting It All Together

Picture of Putting It All Together

Now that you have seen the pieces, let's take a narrated look at some of the Scratch details, and the whole project in action. We hope you enjoyed this project, even if you only learned a few ideas from it!

(If you know the reason that embedded video didn't work, please let me know.)

Step 5: Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Kathy Ceceri for teaching us about MakeyMakey and CircuitScribe at an Instructables Build Night at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity!


amberrayh (author)2015-03-31

Great Instructable and the video is fantastic as well! Maybe you should embed it instead of linking it so no one misses it!

scienceguy4 (author)amberrayh2015-03-31

Thank you amberrayh!
Someone else also suggested embedding the video, and sent me instructions to do that. I will read them and try to follow them.

tomatoskins (author)2015-03-30

Makeymakey's are fun! Congratulations on your first instructable!