Introduction: Makey-Saurus Rex - Makey Makey Balance Board
Whether you call it the Chrome Dino, T-Rex Game, No Internet Game, or just a plain nuisance, everyone seems to be familiar with this side-scrolling dinosaur jumping game. This Google-created game appears in your Chrome web browser every time the internet loses its connection, which usually seems to be anytime you are doing something important! This simple side-scrolling involves running and jumping over cactus as a T-Rex by using the up arrow or space bar, and dodging pterodactyls by ducking with the down arrow or jumping over the low-flyers.
This "hidden" game sees about 270 million runs per month, and to win, the dino would have to dodge cacti for 17 million years according to this article. So winning may be out of the question, but with the Makey Makey, you don't need to groan when the Wi-Fi loses its connection. Instead, bust out your custom-made balance board and jump over cacti to your heart's content!
What you will learn
This Instructable will show you how to create a balance board, hook it up to the Makey Makey, and control the Chrome Dino using the Makey Makey balance board. I am a novice woodworker, so I would love some tips from anyone reading this! I hope you can enjoy this project as much as my family has!
Get ready to burn some prehistoric calories!
Step 1: Supplies
In order to take this project from the primordial soup to prehistoric life, you will need a few things:
To be honest, you could play the Chrome Dino game with the Makey Makey without the balance board or balance pads, but you would really be missing out! All you really need is:
- Makey Makey Classic Kit
- Computer with a USB Port
That's it! The Makey Makey comes with all of the supplies that you would need to get your dino racing and leaping, but this is just a small step up from hitting the space bar. Let's amp up the excitement!
The following materials are subject to adaptation (in fact, I encourage it!) Make this thing your own. I had a blast trying to figure out the best way to get this project working, so use my ideas as a springboard to make something truly grand. That's the beauty of creation!
I will try and provide links, but keep in mind that I bought most of the supplies for my balance board from the hardware store. Here is what I used:
- 3/4" x 11-12" x 2' Poplar Plank - I used Poplar wood due to its low cost and availability. 3/4" seemed to be enough to support our weight. You could really use any scrap plank of wood, OSB, Plywood, or whatever you'd like.
- Douglas Fir 2" x 4" x 1' - I'm sure most of you are aware, but the 2" and 4" dimensions of 2x4's are the nominal width and height. They actually measure about 1.5" x 3.5". You will be using this piece of wood as the fulcrum of your balance board (fulcrum is just a fancy word for describing the point where the board balances/rotates").
- Two of these 2" x 4" 12 Gauge angles - I used these Simpson angles as a support for the fulcrum.
- 12" x 18" 26 ga Sheet Metal - The picture online doesn't look like what I got, but I used an Everbilt 12" x 18" 26 gauge zinc plated piece of sheet metal. You could use any workable piece of conductive material for this.
- Two Decorative Aluminum Sheet - I used two of these for the balance pads.
- Stair Tread Cover - This may seem odd, but this is what made up the base for the balance pads. We also used this to cover the sharp edges of the sheet metal.
- Spax #6 3/4" Multi-Purpose Screws - This is what I found that worked. Any longer and they would have poked through the board.
- Washers as needed. I just took a screw and made sure that the washer fit the screw and prevented the screw head from going through the holes in the angles.
- Velcro Pads
- Various Sand Paper Sheets - I used 60 grit, 120 grit, and 220 grit for the wood part of this project
With just these materials, you will be able to create an adjustable balance board. You really wouldn't need to go any further, but if you want to protect the wood like I did, you will want to provide some sort of finish. I chose Polyurethane for my finish and followed this tutorial. I bought the materials on his list and followed step-by-step.
With just a little creativity, you can find a workaround if you don't have the necessary tools. We don't have a miter saw, table saw, or Skil saw, so I just used my cheap jig saw on everything. I don't have a sheet metal cutter, so I used our kitchen shears (don't tell my wife!)
Don't get discouraged if you don't have the nicest or newest tools, just use your #1 tool (your brain) and whatever you do have on hand. Regardless, here is a list of tools that I used for the project:
- Pen and pencil
- Round object to get the radius of the fillets around the edges of the board
- Trigger clamps
- Jig saw
- Sheet or orbital sander (if you don't have either, then lots of energy and a few muscles should do it).
- Power drill
- Dremel with small drill bit attachment
- Sheet metal cutter (or excellent kitchen shears)
- Hot glue gun
This is a pretty easy and fun project, but you will most likely be using power tools, so exercise as much caution as possible! Here are a few tips:
- Wear safety glasses anytime you are operating the equipment
- Secure things down with clamps, especially while using the jig saw
- Don't wear anything that dangles and tie up your hair if necessary
- Use earplugs and a dust mask
- Watch the sharp edges of the sheet metal (especially right after you cut it)
- Be careful not to burn yourself while using hot glue
- Start slowly with the drill, and make pilot holes whenever you need
- Ask for help from someone who knows what they are doing
I most likely missed a thing or two, but common sense is what matters when you are making a project like this. If it feels wrong, it probably is.
Step 2: Cutting Things to Size
After purchasing, you should have a plank of wood that is about 1'x2' and a section of 2x4 that is about 1' long. To get the wood to the right size:
- Use a small bowl or a cup to trace around the corners of the plank of wood as shown in the image above. This will ensure that your corners are consistently rounded.
- Clamp the piece of wood to a stable surface in a well-ventilated area.
- Use the jig saw to carefully follow the rounded lines you drew.
- Use a sheet sander or orbital sander with 60 grit sand paper to smooth out the flat surface of the board.
- Clamp the piece of wood so you can round the edges with the sander - this takes a bit of time to knock down the edges. Don't worry if you can't get a consistent edge since we will revisit the edges by hand later.
- Sand the plank by hand with 120 grit and then 220 grit paper. This is where you can really get even edges. Take some time on this step. By the end of the sanding, the board should be so smooth you want to sleep on it!
You now have a board that is a little less than 1' x 2' with somewhat rounded edges. Let's get your 2x4 fulcrum ready:
- Measure the width of your board and subtract an inch or two for the length dimension of the 2x4. I think leaving a little overhang on either side of the 2x4 looks nice.
- Mark your 2x4 to the length measured in step 1 and clamp it down.
- Use a saw (miter, table, jig, circular, hack, etc) to cut it to the right length. It really doesn't matter what kind of saw you use. A miter saw would work perfectly here, but since I didn't have one on hand, I just used a bit of patience and a jig saw.
- Decide what height you want the fulcrum to be. We cut ours down to about 3 inches and then sanding it down took off another 1/4" or so. It seems to work well for us. You need to be careful that the final height is greater than the steel angles you bought.
- Mark the right height on the 2x4. Like I mentioned, we traced a line at 3".
- Very carefully clamp the 2x4 down and use the jig saw to run along the line. You probably won't get it perfectly straight, but a bit of sanding should even it right out. (Any woodworker is probably shaking their head. A rip cut should be made with a table saw or circular saw. I had neither on hand, so I used my jig saw and went slowly).
- Use the 60 grit sand paper with the orbital or sheet sander to even things out.
- At this point, I clamped my wood so the bottom surface was pointing up. This surface should be rounded quite a bit to enable the rocking and pivoting. I just took my sander to it for several minutes to get a nice rounded edge. There has to be a better way to do this, so if anyone has any ideas, then let me know how you would do it.
- Sand the 2x4 by hand with 120 and then 220 grit paper. The bottom surface that is rounded needs to be flat for the balance board to work, so take your time and keep sanding until you are satisfied.
You should have a board with rounded corners and smooth edges. You should also have a piece of 2x4 that has a nicely rounded base for rocking.
Step 3: Putting Things Together
At this point, if you are going to place a polyurethane finish or stain on your project, I would recommend doing so. Like I said, I put a simple Polyurethane finish on my board and then polished it up a bit. Since this step isn't vital to the functionality of the project, I have provided the link that I followed. After providing whatever finish you want, you are ready to start piecing things together:
- Mark the center line of your board with a pencil and ruler.
- On the ends of the 2x4, make small pencil marks at half of the width (about 3/4") near the top of the fulcrum. This will allow you to line up the 2x4 right at the center line of the board.
- Place your angles against your 2x4. This next step is a bit tricky, so grab some help if you need.
- Make sure your 2x4 is still on the center line, and pull your angle back a tiny bit. It still needs to be parallel with the 2x4, but you also want to be able to slip the 2x4 in without issue.
- Once your angle is close enough that you will be able to slide the 2x4 in and out, place pencil marks in the holes in the steel angles.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 with your other angle.
- Keeping the angle in place, drive a screw and washer into the hole of the angle (keep the pencil mark inside of the hole). Repeat this for the other two holes of the angle.
- Repeat step 7 for the other angle.
- Place a piece of Velcro between the two angles right in the middle of the board.
- Place two pieces of Velcro about 2-3" in from the edges of the board. Quick Tip: Put both sides of Velcro together on the board and then put the 2x4 down on top of the three patches of Velcro. By doing this, you will be sure to have the fuzzy side of the Velcro lined up with the hook side.
- Place the fulcrum between the angles onto the Velcro.
The Velcro merely ensures that the fulcrum doesn't slide around. The real support comes from the steel angles. You could also screw into the fulcrum from the angles, but by using Velcro, you are making it so you could create different sizes of fulcrums for various levels of difficulty.
Changing out the 2x4 for a flatter, rounder, shorter shape would be as easy as pulling out the one you have in place and swapping. Therefore, this balance board is adaptable to your needs.
As you can see, at this point, the balance board works! Now we just have to give it conductive ends and create conductive pads to complete the circuit.
Step 4: Adding the Metal
In order for the project to work, your feet have to be in contact with a conductive material, which then touches a conductive pad, which then sends a signal to the Makey Makey. I opted for a piece of sheet metal, which I screwed into the board. Here are the steps I followed:
- Cut the sheet metal to size. I used as much of the flat part of the balance board's edge as I could. Since the sheet metal is such a thin gauge, I was able to get through it with my kitchen shears. A sheet metal cutter would give you a much better cut, however.
- Make some pilot holes in the metal with a rotary tool. You could also use a drill press, a punch, or other means, but I just used a small drill bit with my Dremel tool.
- Screw the sheet metal into the wood. For the first side, I bent the sheet around the board prior to drilling the pilot holes, but on the other side I just left it flat, then I drilled the holes. I recommend drilling the holes and then bending the steel. After the sheet is bent into place, drive screws through the holes you made.
- Place trim around the edges to prevent cutting your feet on the sheet metal edge - We just cut off some strips of the stair tread and used hot glue to cover up the sheet metal with the strips. You could use some tape or anything that keeps your feet from getting cut on the metal. Make sure you don't cover up the end of the board. It needs to be metal to metal.
Like I have said a few times, you could do this any number of ways, but this seemed like the best solution for our situation.
Step 5: Balance Pads
We found some decorative aluminum pads that we used. They look and work great! Here are the steps we followed to get them working right:
- Mark out the size you want for the pads on your stair tread and metal sheet.
- Cut out the size you need - once again we used the kitchen shears. We kept the rubber slightly larger than the aluminum sheet.
- Fasten the metal to the stair tread. You will quickly find that glue doesn't really stick to the rubber tread and metal, so we used the Velcro pads again. This also left a little room to get the alligator clip onto the metal.
You need to make two of these pads for each side of the balance board. We found that the stair tread helps prevent the pad from slipping while you are using it.
Step 6: Setting Up the Makey Makey and Dino Game
Grab your Makey Makey and your computer! We are ready to make our Dino run.
Take the following steps to get your Makey Makey working with the balance board:
- Plug in your Makey Makey to the USB Port of your computer.
- We plugged our computer into our television by using an HDMI Cable. This is optional since the computer screen is plenty big.
- Plug in the other side of the red cable into the Makey Makey to fire it up.
- Pull out all of the alligator clips and connecting wires and make three long wires.
- Clip the alligator clips onto the Up Arrow, Space Bar, and Ground.
- Clip the other end of the Up Arrow and Space Bar cables onto the balance sheet metal of the balance pads.
- You will be holding the Ground cable, so pull back the alligator clip to expose as much metal as possible.
- Disable your internet connection on your computer and open up Google Chrome.
- Attempt to navigate to any website, and the Chrome Dino should appear!
- Take off your shoes and socks and grab the Ground cable.
- Center the Balance Board between the two balance pads and step up.
- The moment you step onto the pad, the dino will begin to run and jump. Anytime you touch either the left or right pad with the balance board, the dinosaur will jump.
This is actually quite tricky. If you leave your board down too long on one of the pads, the Makey-Saurus will just keep on jumping, so timing is critical! I think our high score was a measly 250 or so, so post below if you beat that score. If you have a video of this accomplishment, we would love to see it!
I am a beginner at woodworking, so like I mentioned, I would love feedback. I am still trying to learn some of the tips and tricks, so let me know what I could do to improve the project.
The next time your internet goes out, I hope you are letting out a whoop of joy along with me as you prepare your Makey-Saurus Balance Board!
Participated in the
Makey Makey Contest