Introduction: How to Make an Interactive Cell Model

In this instructable, you will be taught how to build an interactive cell model. For this project, you will need;

  • A Makey-Makey (Link to purchase one here)
  • Makey-Makey Aligator Clips (Link to purchase here)
  • Tinfoil
  • Pipe cleaners (7 different colors, about 10 of each color. We used black, purple, blue, orange, yellow, light blue and pink.)
  • Copper wire
  • 2 foam boards (2'5 by 1'7)
  • 7 different colored pens, correspondent to the colors of the pipe cleaners
  • Grey duct tape (better if it's grey, but any color would work.)
  • Scissors or knife
  • Glue (we used a glue gun)

You will also need a Scratch account in order to be able to set up the programming for your model.

We created this Interactive Cell Model to be a fun, alternative way for kids to learn about cells. We ended up gifting this project to a Sixth Grade class to help them learn more about the cell in a fun and interesting way, without having to read a text book or listen to a lecture about it.

Step 1: Cutting the Materials

Grab your foam board and your knife. It's cutting time!

In one of the boards, cut a circle with a diameter of 1ft 1in. That is all you will need to do with the first board. (Circle not shown in above images)

In the second cut a square that is 1ft 5 1/2 in and a triangle with the two shorter sides being 1ft and the longer side being 1ft 5 1/2in long.

Step 2: Sketching Out Diagram

Use a pencil or a pen to sketch out the diagram for your cell onto a separate piece of paper before using a pencil to copy it onto the circle that you cut out of the foam board.

Step 3: Cutting and Placing Pipe Cleaners and Drawing in Detail

Creation of the Nucleus: Choose one of your pipe cleaner colors (we used dark blue) and wrap them as shown in the first photo (ignore the copper wire we have already placed). Use a toothpick to poke holes to anchor it to that the pipe cleaners will go into the board easier.

Continue this same process with all of the other parts, using the materials we used in the photo. Be sure to wrap the pipe cleaners in copper wire, not too much, so that they become conductive.

Step 4: Wiring to Makey-makey

Cut a hole in the center of the board which you are using in the center to hold up the cell. Use that hole to wire the cell to the Makey-Makey using the alligator clips. Attach the clips to the copper wires and then attatch to the makey makey.

Step 5: Creating Scratch Program

Using the online computer program Scratch, create all of the coding that you will use to control your board. When you connect your makey-makey to the laptop, these two things combined will allow you to make your board talk to you and be interactive.

Step 6: Final Product

This is our final cell model, a fully interactive model of, well, a cell. Our programming allows you to interact with it and when you touch each part of the cell a pre-recorded voice will tell you about that part of the cell. We did this by wiring it through the Makey-Makey to our scratch program. We worked on it periodically over a period of two weeks but it would probably not take as long to build if you had a close deadline.