Introduction: Collaborative Makey Makey Sensory Maze

About: Educator, maker, librarian, and Director of Community and Instigator of fun at Makey Makey! I love making and creating all kinds of stuff, but am particularly obsessed with circuits and physical computing!

Having a large STEAM day event at your school? This sensory maze is a super fun project to get your students excited about Makey Makey! Last year, Fraser Mckay created a guide for making a roll-up Makey Makey maze. It really inspired me because of the portability and sustainable aspect of it, and I thought it would be great to mash up with sensory paths I've seen schools putting in hallways to help fidgety students with concentration.

For this project, you are designing and creating a sensory path for two players. Each player walks a conductive pathway and both players need to maintain the connection by holding hands. The have to work together to figure out the sensory movements (smell the flowers, skip the insulators, etc) needed to get through this "maze" without breaking their connection.


Step 1: Draw Out a Plan and Start Making a Conductive Path

Once you get your backdrop laid out, spend some time drawing up a plan. If you are creating this for students, think about ways to get them to squat to smell flowers, or take large steps. In my drawing, I decided they would walk to the center and then turn, walk along a zig zag path, then have to put their hands on the path Twister style. Remember you need two pathways side by side. You are basically creating a giant circuit board! As the players hold hands, it is similar to the way a button a calculator is pressed to tell the brains of the circuit board what number you are pressing. For this oversized creation, we are only making one connection. So you need a path for EARTH and a path for a KEY PRESS.

If you are having students design the maze and want to add an interesting math element, you could have them design their maze in Scratch plotting XY coordinates as they go. This could also be a fun way to have players race the Scratch sprite on the computer as they walk the maze.

When you are happy with your design, use HVAC or aluminum foil tape to start creating the player pathways.

Note: You will want to test to see if the conductive is adhesive on your tape. If it isn't, you can still create the majority of your pathway with this oversized tape, but at any point where you break the tape, you'll want to use a connector tape with conductive adhesive to make sure the entire pathway is conductive.

If you want to make curves and shapes with your tape, check out this video showing how to fold and press the tape so you don't have to tear it to make interesting designs.

You will cut the tape when you get to the part where you add sensory elements, but that's why we have the second conductive fabric tape to continue the path to each conductive sensory element you design in the next step. (You can use copper tape with conductive adhesive or the tape that comes in the Makey Makey Inventor Booster Kit.)

If you use HVAC or large aluminum tape, please note that the edges can be very sharp! You do not want to experience a metal tape paper cut! So be mindful when applying this tape. (Small copper tape also has sharp edges, but it isn't as devious as the larger tape.)

Step 2: Get Inspiration From Sensory Hallways and Cut Your Own Shapes

If you haven't seen the sensory hallways schools are putting in, do a little research and check out some of the cool sensory paths and movement hallways to get some design inspiration.

To create conductive footprints, I drew my foot onto a piece of paper to make a template, and then cut two wide strips of conductive tape (with conductive adhesive) to make a footprint path. Since copper tape is a little difficult to cut with detail, I used my vinyl cutter to cut hand prints. I experimented with a few different types of copper tape sheets in my Cricut machine and found these copper sheets to be easiest for cutting and weeding. I used a hand design already in the design assets and just cut a few!

When you place the feet and hands on your path, make sure to try them out before you adhere them. Will other students be able to do the movements? Which foot do you need to place for your movement to work? This is one of the funnest aspects to designing your own maze! Remember this maze is about movement and fun. It should be just challenging enough, but not so hard others will give up. (Not quite as hard as Flappy Bird, but close!)

I also used my vinyl cutter to create images and notes of encouragement as students play. I found that on my canvas backdrop the iron-on (heat transfer) vinyl worked better than just a vinyl sticker. But if you use a giant tarp like Fraser, regular sticker vinyl should work as well!

If you don't have a vinyl cutter, but you still want your players to squat or use their hands, think about creating a key that will get your players moving the right direction. You can always print notes on cardstock like "Smell the flowers" or "Squash the bugs." I made a few signs that I could easily lay out. Try brainstorming ideas with a friend or your get ideas from your physical education teacher!

Step 3: Connect Pathways With Conductive Tape and Insulate With Masking Tape

Once you have all the elements of your maze laid out, you'll need to connect each player's path with conductive tape with conductive adhesive and insulate certain aspects with masking tape. In the second picture on this step, you can see that the silver fabric tape connects the circle shape to the hand and then the hand to the foot path. To motivate players to "stop and smell the flowers" and not just walk the whole path, I insulated these pathways with masking tape. (In the third picture, you can see how the masking tape covers the conductive pathway shown in the previous picture.)

If you are feeling confident with your circuit building skills, you can even have player pathways cross, as long as you insulate your circuit with Duct tape or masking tape. At the very end of my game, I used skinny tape and made a very intricate path and had player two cross over player one. The bright green tape helped player two know they needed to cross. This was a fun spot to watch players determine how to work together to get to the last step of the maze.

To help players visualize their pathway during the whole game, I used a bright color for each path. Player One follows the purple path and player two follows the neon green path. At the start of the game, I placed Player One and an arrow very close to the purple path. I also used the same color arrow along the path to keep each player along their respective path.

The Duct tape and masking tape not only insulate your circuit, they help keep your players safe! This foil tape has sharp edges and you need to smooth it with your fingernail as much as possible, but along your curves, you can also protect your players by placing tape over folds and sharp edges as needed.

Step 4: Code in Scratch

Lay your maze out, connect one pathway to EARTH and one pathway to SPACE.

Let's create a quick Scratch game to let players know when they are connected and a way to know they need to get back on the conductive path.

The first thing you'll want to do is have a sound that plays when your players make a connection. I found a good "circus" sounding song in the Youtube Audio Library. To have this code play only when the space key is pressed, you'll want two different if statements nested in forever loops. This will have Scratch always checking to see if the statement is true or not. I have my song playing if the space is pressed. Because of the "play sound until done" on the sound effect, I had to write a second program to get the sound to stop when my players break the connection. This uses a logic statement found in the Operator palette. This code checks to see if the space key is not pressed and if the space key is not pressed, Scratch will stop all sounds.

I also wanted my sprite to look like it is walking a tightrope when the players make a connection, but to fall a little when the connection was lost. In the second picture, you can see this code. That makes the skeleton if the space key is pressed, but drop change position on the y axis by -10 when the space key is not pressed. If you don't add the wait 1 sec control here, your character will fall very quickly! The last bit of code on this event hat is to tell Scratch if the skeleton touches sprite "line" then broadcast the message "Try Again." This will signal the end of the game and the players will need to start at the beginning to try again!

Make sure to include the Event hat When I receive message. I used the second backdrop, so Scratch wouldn't play the circus song anymore and instead would play the sound to "Game over, Try Again."

The last picture shows how to quickly animate any character in Scratch when walking. I coded the skeleton to change costume and if you don't add the wait sec block, you won't see the costume change. You can change the variable here to suit your animation needs!

If you'd like a full Scratch tutorial for this project, make sure to watch the full video, I tweak some code in the video for more animation fun.

(You can also see or remix my Scratch game here.)

Step 5: Play and Reiterate!

Now that you have your entire game created, it's time to play!

Lay your maze out, connect one pathway to EARTH and one pathway to SPACE.

Hit the Green flag on the computer and have players walk the path! Figuring out what to do at each sensory spot is what makes this a maze, and it's pretty fun to add a timer to keep others excited about playing.

Once you are done, you can fold up your game and pack it away to play again another day.

Spend some time reflecting on the process:

  • What did you learn as you created this sensory maze?
  • What would be fun to try if you redesign it?
  • How could you add more sensory elements?
  • Could you add other key presses to include extra challenges?

Reflect, reiterate, design new mazes, create new challenges, and change your Scratch game to see if you can make even more elements that work with the computer, but most of all, keep playing and learning!

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