Introduction: Musical Super Hero Badges

About: I am an artist and arts educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What is your super power? What is your kryptonite?

Make a musical super hero badge that represents you and your skills as individual and as a team member. This is an ice breaker exercise for all ages. Participants explore circuitry in a simple art project using the Makey Makey device and are invited to contemplate how we best interact on teams.

Materials: construction paper, scissors, needle nose pliers, pencils, scratch paper, markers, color pencils, pipe cleaners, conductive thread, HVAC ducting tape, sewing needles, glue sticks, white glue, MakeyMakey devices, computers with access to the internet (as you will be using Scratch) and shape templates for the badges.

Step 1: Pick Out Your Super Hero Bagde Shape

  1. Have a range of template shapes for participants to select from.
  2. Trace a template onto a colored piece of construction paper and cut out your shape

Step 2: Sketch Ideas and Jot Notes

  1. Brainstorm ideas on what your skills are as an individual and what your skills are in a group.
  2. jot down words and doodle ideas.
  3. Feel free to be creative in how you represent a skill. For instance, if you are good listener you can represent that with an ear. If a human ear looks too weird to you, then you can draw rabbit ears or big ears of another animal.
  4. You can anchor your whole design to the letter of your first or last name.

Step 3: Create the Parts for Your Super Hero Patch

This is the fun part! Cut out shapes and test them out on the background shape you cut out earlier. When you are happy with your composition, glue the pieces down (white glue or glue stick is fine).

Step 4: Adding Conductive Thread and Tape

To enable your super hero badge to hook up to a Makey Makey you will need to add conductive elements on your badge to which alligator clips can attach. You can use conductive foil HVAC duct sealing tape and/or conductive thread (I get mine from Adafruit)

  1. Identify the spots on your badge where you will press to make music.
  2. create a conductive path from each spot to the edge of the badge.
  3. Make sure that your conductive lines do not intersect each other.

Step 5: Hook Your Super Hero Badge Up to the Makey Makey

  1. Attach one end of an alligator clip to the edge of the badge where one conductive line ends.
  2. Take the other end of that same alligator clip and connect it an arrow key connection spot on the Makey Makey.
  3. Do the same for each of the connection lines on your badge until each conductive line is connected to the Makey Makey via an alligator clip.
  4. Add one last alligator clip to the earth or ground strip at the bottom of the Makey Makey. The free end of this alligator clip is the one you can touch to your skin to ground the device. (clipping to a sleeve that touches your wrist or arm frees you up from holding it with your fingers)

Step 6: Make Your Super Hero Badge Play Music!

  1. Connect your Makey Makey to your computer via the red USB connector cable. Go to the Makey Makey website and visit this page:
  2. Scroll down to the "Try Out Software" section and select either the piano or Scratch Piano link.
  3. Now try playing your super hero badge by touching the conductive spots on your badge with your finger tips.
  4. Have fun!
  5. Create two columns on a whiteboard. In one column write super powers and in the other write kryptonyite.

  6. One by one, the participants share their badges with the group and explain what they represent. Each person also shares what is his/her kryptonite (things that shut them down creatively when they are working in a group.) One person is assigned to capture and write key words and phrases from the sharing on the board. These are add to either the super hero column or the kryptonyite column.
  7. Each participant wraps up his/her sharing by playing a little improvisational musical piece on his/her super hero badge.
  8. Wrap up with a discussion of what was captured on the white board. What does it inform us of how we work best? Write a list on the whiteboard of how we would like to act, behave, and treat one another in collaborations and working on design teams.

Thank you to Mary Cantwell and the DEEPdt Design Challenge PLAYBOOK for planting the seeds for this workshop idea!