Introduction: Lighting an LED With Makey Makey

About: Computers are going bananas! Use #makeymakey to practice invention literacy and connect the world to your computer.

Here's a quick micro-guide for lighting LEDS with your Makey Makey invention kit!

For this project you'll need some 3mm or 5mm LEDS, Play-doh, and some regular aluminum foil from your kitchen!

You'll learn to use the "KEY OUT" pin on the back of your Makey Makey, tinker with making Play-doh switches, and craft your own paper circuit.


Step 1: Light an LED

You can easily light an LED with a 3V coin-cell battery, but it's pretty cool to learn how to light an LED with Makey Makey. It will encourage your students to find interesting ways to build switches that will light up their work.

First, turn over your Makey Makey and look for the top header on the back of the board. Instead of an alligator clip, you access these pins with hook up or jumper wires. Place a jumper wire (the small white wire in your kit) into the "KEYOUT" pin. You can then clip an alligator clip to the other end of this wire and clip it to the long leg of your LED which will be the positive leg. We used the red alligator clip for our positive connection.

To ground your LED, clip one alligator clip to EARTH (or use a jumper wire in a GND pin) and clip the other end to the short leg of your LED. We used the black alligator clip for our negative connection.

That's it! To light your LED, hold EARTH and press any key press to light up your LED.

Step 2: Make a Switch

Craft some simple switches with Play-doh to show students how they can create circuits with things that are readily available! Let them try out different materials to see what can be used as an inventive switch. They can even create their own scrappy circuits with office supplies.

Step 3: Craft on Paper

If you haven't crafted a circuit on paper yet, you should try this out!

All you need is some aluminum foil, and LED, and a 3V coin-cell battery. This is a quick and simple paper circuit!

If you don't have a battery, you can still create a paper circuit and wire it to Makey Makey kind of like you did in step one. This video shows you both techniques:

Make sure to download these templates!

Step 4: More Resources

Like this tutorial? Want to go more in depth? Check out these other resources for tinkering with LEDs, circuits, and more!

  • Simple Circuit Challenge: A great beginner guide for teachers who want to introduce circuits with Makey Makey and encourage a little making to learn.
  • Tinkering with Circuits Stations: This guide for teachers helps kids follow a "tinkering to discover" path and let them tinker with circuits in small stations and end with creating some collaborative LED art!
  • Intro to the Back of the Board: Learn how to use WASD, output, and even use Makey Makey as a mouse!
  • Introduction to Sewing Circuits with Makey Makey: Want to teach your students to make wearables and sew circuits? This quirky guide shows you how to sew some conductive jelly donuts and even sew your own donut switches!
  • Hacking Holiday String Lights with Makey Makey: This advanced guide uses Makey Makey in a whole new way to light up different LEDS on different key presses!
  • Valentine Paper Circuit Template: What will Makey Makey your heart light up? This is a quick downloadable that encourages testing items to see what will light up with Makey Makey!