About: Hey! I'm on Instructables now! Here you'll find tutorials showcasing all of the fun and challenging projects my students work on in my Makerspace classes: Robotics, 3D Printing, Makey Makey, Arduino, video ga…

This is a project I assign to my Makerspace students that utilizes the Makey Makey and Scratch (along with a number of other materials). Depending on how often you meet with your students and how long your period/block is, this project's duration could be a few weeks to a few months. We follow the Engineering Design Process to guide the project's progress.

Feel free to modify criteria and constraints as you see fit based on age groups and available materials/equipment.

I provide the following to them when introducing the project:


4th: Food

5th: International

6th: The 80’s


To explore concepts related to physical computing utilizing Scratch software and Makey Makey hardware through the development of an original musical instrument.


PART ONE: You must design and construct an original musical instrument based on the theme and criteria provided. You are responsible for both the software and hardware required to operate the instrument.

PART TWO: The instrument must be used as part of an original song composed by the entire class.


  • Instrument must be safe to operate
  • Instrument must be school appropriate
  • Hardware interface must be designed using the Makey Makey
  • Hardware interface must control instrument in Scratch environment
  • Hardware interface must be easy to understand
  • Instrument must feature at least five distinct sounds (experiment with recording your voice, composing chords/arpeggios, etc.) related to the theme. Also – have a discussion with your musically talented classmates to plan out how each instrument should sound (i.e. strings, percussion, woodwinds, brass)
  • Instrument must be aesthetically pleasing and related to theme (i.e. built from cardboard and painted/colored). Craftsmanship counts!
  • Scratch component must include at least one original sprite that relates to the theme. This should interact as the instrument is played.
  • Instrument may not utilize a computer mouse or keyboard

IMPORTANT: Your team will be required to keep a weekly DESIGN NOTEBOOK. This should be a Google DRIVE document that is shared with your design partner and the teacher. This will be a weekly progress grade.


  • Functioning prototype that meets design criteria
  • Original music composition collaboratively created (written and performed on video) by all class members

Chrome Song Maker

Scratch Official Website

Makey Makey Official Site:


  • Makey Makey
  • Alligator clips
  • PC with external monitor or laptop
  • Scratch software
  • Cardboard/Paper
  • Wood
  • Masonite
  • Glue
  • Duct Tape
  • 22 AWG Wire (solid core)
  • LEDs, solder, soldering iron
  • Bare Conductive paint
  • Graphite
  • Copper tape
  • Play-doh? Oobleck? Water?
  • OTHER (use your creativity!)


As a preliminary step for this project, I have students open Scratch software (either online or downloaded/local) and complete self-guided tutorials. I typically assign the first seven as this will give them enough of an introduction to the coding environment to understand its functionality and an apply it to their projects.

Scratch Official Website


Once students have become somewhat familiar with software development with Scratch, I introduce them to the Makey Makey - a printed circuit board that allows makers to turn everyday conductive objects into switches. View the How-To videos via the link below to start:

Makey Makey How-To

I then hold a mini-clinic and show students how to connect the Makey Makey to the computer with included USB cable (the MM is bus powered - no need for external power supply). Next, I show them how to connect alligator clips to the arrows on the MM. These then get connected to conductive objects, such as a ball of Play Doh, aluminum foil, fruit or pencil graphite drawn on paper. Once students see how this works, they are basically ready to start inventing their first prototypes.


As the project progresses, students work in pairs to develop their game systems. The project essentially runs itself. Along the way, I facilitate by offering mini-clinics on skills they can incorporate. These are 15 minutes at most.

Some will include:

  • How to cut cardboard more effectively using a utility/craft knife, metal straightedge, and cutting matte
  • How to cut and strip solid core wire (AWG 22) using a wire stripper
  • Advanced functions of the Makey Makey - how to use the headers on the back
  • What is an LED and how can it be used with the Makey Makey?
  • How to make a pressure plate switch


After a few weeks of project development, students should be able to present a first rough prototype. It should give an idea as to how the game is intended to look and feel. It is by no means the final product. At this point, the teacher (and student beta testers) should provide useful user feedback for the designers to guide them in improving the system. How many prototypes you allow to be developed before the final prototype presentation is up to you.


In my classes, I like to stage an event as a presentation deadline. In the case of the Digital Orchestra, I invite in all school community members - teachers, students, parents, etc. - to try out the instruments. My student designers love this as they get to see the user experience and the guests love it because is a fun, festive event that celebrates the hard work of my students.

See attached videos for more info.