Introduction: DIY Speed Stacks Timer for Speed Cubing

About: I love all things programming from making a Led blink on a arduino, to controlling a whole Christmas light show from my phone with raspberry pi and other hardware. If you'd like to see the light show, check ou…

In this instructable, I'm going to show you how to make your own speed stacks timer for solving Rubix cubes. This timer will be able to work with any Rubix cube (2x2, 3x3, 4x4, 5x5, megaminx, skewb, pyraminx, clock, etc). It will also work just like a speed stacks timer with one benefit, you won't need to enter your time into a speed cube timer website, it just basically acts as the space bar. First off, if you don't know how to solve any Rubix cube, then this timer may not be for you. However, you could use it for other things such as maybe timing yourself to build a puzzle. I hope to have an instructable about solving a Rubix cube in the future, but until then, you can just search for videos on YouTube. If you can solve a rubix cube but don't know what a speed stack timer is, it's basically a timer that you put both your hands on, and when you remove them, it starts a timer. When you place both hands down again, it stops the timer. (See picture 2 above for what a speed stack timer looks like.) Speed stack timers are used at WCA (World Cubing Association) competitions. So now, let's get on with the supplies needed!


Makey Makey (regular one suggested, but instructions will be included at the end for using a Makey Makey Go)

Makey Makey USB cord (not needed for Makey Makey Go)

2 alligator clip wires

Piece of cardboard

tape (painters tape, duck tape, or scotch tape will all work. Use glue for a substitute)

Decent size piece of aluminum foil

Conductive tape (optional)

And finally, obviously a Rubix cube

Step 1: How It Works

The aluminum foil is the main part that will conduct electricity for the Makey Makey to know when your hands are touching. Basically, the Makey Makey (See picture 1 for what a Makey Makey is), will send an extremely low voltage signal (about 5 volts, not enough to feel it let alone to get shocked) through one of the wires to one piece of aluminum foil. Then the other wire going to the other piece of aluminum foil will be waiting for that signal to go through it back to the Makey Makey. When you put your hands on both pieces of aluminum foil, the signal goes through the first piece of foil, in your hand up into your body, then down your arm out to your other hand then through the aluminum foil. Thus, creating a circuit allowing the Makey Makey to know both of your hands are touching the foil. If only one hand is touching one piece of foil, then there in no circuit and it will not work. But if one hand is touching both pieces of foil, then the circuit is still created and the signal will just go though one side of your hand out the other. When the board realizes the circuit is made, it will send a signal to your computer in milliseconds to provide an accurate and true time when speed solving a Rubix cube. The signal that is sent to your computer is the same that would be sent from an attachable keyboard pushing the space bar. So this way you could use an online timer like or and it will think your pushing the space bar to start the timer. If your favorite timer app of website uses a different key other then space, I will show you how to reprogram the Makey Makey to use other keys.

So enough of how it works, let's build this thing!

Step 2: Putting the Foil and Conductive Tape Onto the Cardboard

So once you have a piece of cardboard, go ahead and cut it to a small enough rectangle (or square) so it doesn't take up a lot of room, but it's big enough to fit 2 pieces of foil on it. The exact size of mine is 10in (25.4 cm) wide by 8 1/2in (21.59 cm) tall. Then cut 2 pieces of aluminum foil the same size to be big enough to fit about all your fingers, but small enough they both fit onto the cardboard. And most importantly: THEY DON'T TOUCH EACH OTHER! If they do touch each other, your computer will think your always pushing the space bar since it makes a complete circuit. The exact size of mine are 3 3/4 in wide (95 mm) by 4 1/2 in tall (114 mm). Once you have your pieces cut, lay them out on the cardboard so there almost on the edge. Again, make sure they don't touch! Once you laid them out, put a piece of tape across the entire bottom of each separate, and then the same on the left and right, but leave the top with no tape. You could use glue instead of tape if you want. It's ok if the tape goes onto the back side of the cardboard (See picture 1). Next, take a piece (or pieces) of conductive tape and stick it about 3/4 in (19 mm) over on top of the aluminum foil on the un taped side (See picture 2). Make sure it's long enough to stretch all the way to the end of the cardboard and wrap it around under to the bottom (See picture 3). Finally, put a piece of tape over the un taped side on top of the aluminum foil and conductive tape so the entire piece of foil is covered with tape (See picture 4). Now you can move on to step 3!

------------------------- SUBSTITUTE FOR CONDUCTIVE TAPE--------------------

If you do not have conductive tape, cut a long, skinny strip of aluminum foil. Then tape or glue it on top of the main piece of foil. Next, tape or glue it to the cardboard all the way to the end, then wrap it around the bottom and tape or glue it there.

Step 3: Setting Up the Makey Makey

If your software or website timer uses the space bar, and you have not programed the Makey Makey to use any other keys, then you should be all set to skip to the next step and use the circle labeled space for one of your wires, then use any of the 6 "earth" connections for your other wire. However, If your timer uses a different key other then space, or you reprogrammed your Makey Makey, then you will need to change what clip section does what. To do this, go to, and follow the instructions there. You can use your Makey Makey as a keyboard to change what key does what. I recommend you set one of the clip section on the top as the space key, and not the pinouts on the bottom. Remember what clip section you set the space key to be to. You can also just select restore to factory default to make every key do what is labeled.

Step 4: Connecting the Makey Makey to Your Computer and Your Cardboard Pad

One of the nice thing about Makey Makey is there is no block coding, or text coding, or any coding or programming you need to do this project. The only part you could call "programming" is the last step where you switched what each key does. But other then that, it's plug and play! So take an aligator clip wire, and clip it to any of the "earth" labeled connections. Take the other end, and clip it to either of the conductive tape endings (or aluminum foil if you used that instead). Make sure the clip is touching the tape part. (See picture 2). Take the other wire, and clip it to the proper section on the Makey Makey that you set to space (See picture 1). If it is set to factory default or you never changed it, it will be the circle between the right arrow and the circle on the end. It will be labled "space". Now, plug the USB cord into your computer and Makey Makey, and you should be all set! If your computer automatically thinks the space is being pushed, head to the trouble shooting section.

Step 5: Testing

So now, go to your favorite timer website or software. Be careful not to touch the pad while doing that, or your computer will think you pushed the space bar (or whatever key you setup to use). Once you get there, scramble your Rubix cube, inspect it (if you don't know what I mean these are just cubing terms), put your hands on the pad, then when you pick them up, the timer should start and you can start solving. When your done, put your hands on the pad and the time should stop. I really hope you enjoyed this project and thank you for reading all the way to here! I wish I had a real speed stack timer, but until then, this is what I'm using! If you have any problems with your timer, go 2 steps below to the troubleshooting step. If you want to use this with a Makey Makey Go, go to the next step. Happy solving!

Step 6: How to Use With a Makey Makey Go

If for some reason you don't want to use the Makey Makey classic, or you don't have one, then here are the steps to use a Makey Makey Go. First off, you can keep the cardboard piece with the aluminum foil and conductive tape already. Just take another piece of conductive tape, and connect it between the other 2 pieces that go to the top. Then take one clip and connect it to either of the conductive tape ends, then clip the other end to the Makey Makey Go. You can go back to the Makey Makey remap website, if you want to change what the key does on it. One thing I did notice doing it this way is it is very unreliable. Sometimes the Makey Makey Go thinks you push it at random times when you don't, and sometimes there is up to a 2 second delay when you push it. But hopefully it works for you!

Step 7: Troubleshooting

The second I plug my Makey Makey in, my computer thinks I push the space bar.

Make sure that each piece of the aluminum foil is not touching each other. Also make sure the wire clips are not touching each other. If you have the cardboard setup for a Makey Makey Go, take the piece of conductive tape off between the other 2 pieces. Make sure the cardboard is not on a conductive or wet surface such as metal or wet floors or tables. If you are on any of these, take the piece of conductive tape off that is underneath the carboard. Make sure there is no water on top of the cardboard.

My computer thinks I push a different key then what is setup.

Check to see if the wires are clipped onto the correct sections on the Makey Makey. Also check to see if the clip section your wire is on is set to what your really think it is.

My computer doesn't do anything when I touch the aluminum foil.

Check if the Makey Makey is plugged into your computer. Also make sure you have the current window with your timer active on your computer. Double check all your connections such as alligator clip wires, and that the aluminum foil and conductive tape are touching each other. Make sure you touch each piece of aluminum foil at the same time with 2 hands. And this might sound weird, but wash your hands then dry them off lightly so they're moist. That sometimes helps.