Introduction: Makey Makey Musical Instruments TurtleArt Mashup

About: Mr. Christopher Sweeney is a 1996 graduate of University of the Art’s Philadelphia College of Art and Design with a B.F.A. in Fine Arts/Painting and Drawing, and recently received his M.A., also from the Unive…

In this project, my student used 21st Century Skills and Design Thinking and information from Cooper Hewitts' website to create their MakeyMakey Musical Instruments TurtleArt Mashup.


Makey Makey Classic, Glue gun, glue sticks, chipboard, aluminum wire, 3D printer, tinfoil, copper tape, wooden dowels, paint, Crayola air dry clay

Step 1: Design Thinking

This is the first project my 9th and 10th grade Design students create in my Maker Technologies class at Charter High School for Architecture and Design in Philadelphia.Pa.

I start them off by showing the students images and discussing design with examples from Cooper Hewitt and their wonderful educational resources they have used with our professional development at our school.

Educator Tip:

After the introduction to design,get the students acclimated to MakeyMakey and how it works.Start them with the How-To page, and them have them try out various materials that work with the MakeyMakey,as per the instructions.

Step 2: Experimentation and Drawing

In this step,I have the students just experiment with the MakeyMakey and how it works, pure play, projects,peers,and passion.I let them play and work with Scratch,and reverse-engineer how it works with MakeyMakey.If they want to play a game either on Scratch,or onliune,the rule is they have to use the MakeyMakey as the interface.After a full day of this (my underclassmen classes are 53 minutes),they work on four sketches and/or thumbnail sketches.

They will work on this for a day or two, not worrying about their drawing skills or making it look realistic, but just getting their ideas on the paper and flowing and getting to think.After the students have the four drawings completed,I talk to them individually about which one would be the most creative and the one they should pursue (they make the final decision,I just put my two cents worth into the design process).After this conversation,the student does a more detailed drawing with measurement and notes about the construction of the design.Designs will vary, but they will need to have at the minimum the following parameters:

-Seven to eleven keys that work with the MakeyMakey.These may or may not be 3D printed, or just completed in aluminum foil/copper tape.They may use Morphi,or TurtleArt to design this section of the design.

-a three-dimensional instrument or controller that is aesthetically pleasing and has a good design build (i.e. craftsmanship).

Besides that,I don't put many parameters on the projects.

Educator Tip:

It is important that the students hash out their ideas.I only have these students for eight weeks, so I tell them they need to pick a project that they complete in this time period.

Step 3: Creation

Now that the students have a detailed drawing, the construction will take on many forms.Most of the projects will be three dimensional,some will be just simple structure, and others will be more of an user-based experience.I use several handouts to show them basic hand building techniques.Here is a great resource for showing them scoring techniques with cardboard:

I also go over how to use an Xacto blade, and hot glue guns and go over safety procedures with both of them.

I was using TurtleArt as a separate project, but the students enjoyed the programs we decided to do a true mashup.The other requirement was originally that they had one 3D printed part of their design,now they can add a TurtleArt design instead.I also use as well since the students love using this incredible software to add some personalized touches to their designs.

Educator Tip:

The TurtleArt section of this project is a bit more daunting and can be replaced by a regular 3D printed component.

Step 4: Testing,Experimentation,and Prototyping.

In this next area, the students will be testing and experimenting to see if their designs work with the MakeyMakey,as well as prototyping.I give minimal directions and parameters on purpose to expand the students inquiry into what works and does not work.The students need to have a minimum of 7 buttons (one being Earth),and the design must be three-dimensional,constructed out of cardboard and other simple materials.If the design does not work with MakeyMakey,or work correctly with Scratch, then they need to hack,tweek,or redesign certain aspects.In the case of my student pictured in the front photo of this lesson, she has to take apart the neck of her guitar since the alligator clips were not wired solidly and/or correctly.She was an anomaly since her MakeyMakey was imbedded in her guitar, and was part of her design instead of it being outside the instrument (she had special permission to keep the MakeyMakey since it would be encased in her guitar design).

After the testing and prototyping,the experimentation part takes place.Students are encouraged to experiment with their designs, see what modifications could be made, and have fun.They might try different Scratch programs, or work with a partner, or just play the instrument, since that is what is made for to begin with, to play and enjoy their designs.

Educator Tip:

If the students are new to Scratch,it is best to have them connect to an already completed program,such as this piano project: