Introduction: Make an Interactive Science Exhibit

About: i.lab for Design + Making

If you've ever wanted to ditch the standard slideshow presentation or tri-fold formats, you might enjoy making a custom, interative exhibit that is powerd by Scratch programming, a Makey Makey board, and basic craft materials!

This activity supports young makers by providing a rich opportunity for exploration, tinkering, and play while also working with basic programming, engineering, and circuit making.

Step 1: Materials

  • Makey Makey kit
  • a Chromebook or laptop
  • Scratch programming account
  • Misc. craft supplies:
    • poster board
    • scissors
    • markers
    • conductive tape (or aluminum foil)
    • hot glue
    • bone folder

Step 2: Create the Poster

Next, decide the topic that you'd like to add interactive features to. In this example, 3rd grade students were studying body systems.

Sketch, draw, and label as needed.

Step 3: Prepare the Poster for Makey Makey

In order to connect to a Makey Makey board, you'll need to modify the poster a bit.

First, choose five spots on the poster that lend themselves to a media element, like sound, animation, and text that will be displayed on a laptop when triggered.

Next, poke holes on the locations that you have selected, then turn the poster over. In pencil, trace circuit paths that orginate from each hole and along the back of the poster board (five total).

Then adhere the copper tape along the paths. These will correspond to five points on the Makey Makey board, the Up, Down, Left, Right, and Spacebar connections.

Step 4: Connect the Poster to Makey Makey

Clip five alligator clips from the Up, Down, Left, Right, and Spacebar positions to the five copper tape paths on the poster, with one clip per path.

On the poster, label which "key" from the Makey Makey board is being connected to each individual copper tape circuit path, which will help with the upcoming steps.

Don't forget to also attach one last alligator clip to the "Earth" section of the Makey Makey board, any position will work.

Step 5: Create Media in Scratch

With just a few blocks, you can add animation, text, sound, and music to your poster!

In Scratch, click on Orange "Events" section and drag "When space key pressed" block over to the script area. You'll do this five time total.

Next, using the drop down menu on these blocks, assign each one to a corresponding "key" on the Makey Makey (i.e. Up, Down, Left, Right). Luckily, "space" key is already done!

These five blocks will are the basis for how the computer, running Scratch, will respond to inputs from the Makey Makey board when triggered.

In the sample code shown, triggering the keys will cause an audio file to play.

For more examples of other possibilities, which are too numerous for this instructable, see the Things to Try section of the Scratch website.

Once you have added all of the elements you want to include for the poster, it's time to test the setup.

Step 6: Test It

For this project, in order to trigger the interactive elements, you'll need to become part of the circuit!

To do this, first make sure that your Scratch program is running, the Makey Makey board is connected via USB to the computer, and that all the alligator clips from the board are attached to the correct coper tape circuit paths on the poster.

Next, hold the free end of the alligator clip that is connected to "Earth" on the Makey Makey board.

Finally, with your other hand, touch any of the interactive points you made earlier. On the computer screen, you should see the media you created in Scrach activate. If not, you may need to do some debugging in the setup, either with the circuits, connections, and/or programming.

Step 7: Share

The rest is up to you. The posters can be put up practically anywhere, and can be activiated by one person or even a group of people hold hands.

Good luck and happy making!