Introduction: Makey Makey Water Piano

We have some inspired teachers and makers here in Arkansas.


At the Arkansas State University Museum Tinkerfest on June 13th, two of the Tinkerfest staff came up with the idea of a water piano powered by Makey Makey and Scratch. I partnered with them bringing technical and troubleshooting expertise.


Concept
Use separate water buckets to activate keys on the Makey Makey, which in turn play notes on a Scatch-made piano

Step 1: Required Materials

Makey Makey w/USB cable
laptop computer with browser running Scratch website (or standalone program)
9 x alligator clips (more may be necessary depending on length)
1 x roll conductive tape
8 x color coded buckets
Something to use as a splash barrier (we used an upturned table)
Color coded sheet music (we encoded Chopsticks or The Celebrated Chop Waltz by Euphemia Allen)
Piano program designed for Makey Makey (we used MK-1)

(Optional: aluminum pie plate to act as an interactive ground)

Step 2: Conductive Tape

Run conductive tape strips from the inside bottom of each bucket to a fold-over tab above the bucket. The tabs will be alligator clipped to individual keys on the Makey Makey. It is important that the tabs are located at the top edge of the bucket. You do not want the alligator clips to come in contact with the puddles that will inevitably form outside the buckets.

Run a conductive tape strip the length of the area in front of the water bucket piano with a fold-over tab at one end. This is the grounding strip that will be alligator clipped to “Earth” on the Makey Makey to complete the circuit. An alternative method of grounding would be to alligator clip to an aluminum pie pan that one person holds to play (or others can play as long as they are touching the grounding individual).

Once all the conductive tape has been set up, you can fill each bucket (about 2/3 full) with water and lay them out inline for the piano.

Step 3: Wiring the Makey Makey

Using the piano program as a guide, use alligator clips to wire each color-coded bucket. Make sure you run the wires so that the splash shield protects the Makey Makey from getting wet.

Hook the Makey Makey up to the laptop using included USB cable and launch the piano program.

Step 4: Experiment and Make Music!

Guests thoroughly enjoyed this interactive experience. Using the pie plate as ground made for some great communal fun. At one point we had 6 people, young and old, in an unbroken chain touching hand to shoulder playing the piano together!

Running a conductive strip on the ground was more convenient as people could use both hands to play, but I felt that the pie pan led to much more fun human interaction.

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