Introduction: Quick Connectors and Buttons for Makey Makey

About: I play with light

This Instructable will cover making quick connectors for Makey Makey boards for those that either have difficulty physically connecting small wires, like people with arthritis or chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy and for those among us that are a bit apprehensive about wiring.

  • Short ethernet cables are semi-permanently connected to the board.
  • Ethernet cables are used to wire various Makey Makey projects.
  • In-line couplers are used to connect the pre-wired projects.

It will also cover making dimensional, colorful and squishy buttons to add a pop of color and texture to any Makey Makey project.


I was introduced to Makey Makey a couple of weeks ago and I thought it was the coolest thing to play with. In my spare time, I put together STEM activities for a k-12 grade school so I had to see what I could do with it.

After talking to educators about Makey Makey, I was shocked (sorry) at how many people wrongly thought that it would electrocute students and how fearful they were of wires. The overwhelming response could be distilled down to “wires = bad”. Since the fear of wires and “electrical stuff” is so intimidating to my group of instructors, I set out to gently nudge them towards the dark side.

I made a series of quick-release connectors so that they did not have to deal with wiring the board. They only had to code and the interface. I will talk them into wiring after they see the benefits in this awesome little package.

It wasn’t my original intent, although now it seems obvious, but this setup also has the added benefit of making Makey Makey accessible to people dealing with a weird the side effects of chemo that cause issues with dexterity and sensation in the hands.

This connector is also great to quickly swap between projects meant for a preschool class where students are a little too young to work with the board.


  • Makey Makey kit
  • Alligator clips (2)
  • Cardboard
  • Small zip ties
  • Ethernet cables
  • Ethernet coupler (2)
  • Cricut or ruler and craft knife
  • Wire strippers/cutters
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Safety glasses
  • Floral wire
  • Wire mandrel set (oval, circle, triangle, square)


  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Third hand tool

Step 1: Cut Ethernet Cable

  • Take an 6 foot Ethernet cable and cut it in half
  • Remove about 6 inches of the outer tubing from the cut end
    • Do not cut the 8 wires or their insulation
  • Repeat for the other half of the cable

Step 2: Project Cable Fab

    Use this cable to wire your project.

    • Strip about an 2 inches of the insulation off the brown and brown+white wires
    • Tie a loop with at the end of the bare brown and brown+white wires
      • This will facilitate the attachment of a ground strap
    • Strip about an inch of the insulation off the other six wires
    • Make as many as you need to quickly move between projects

    Step 3: Connector Fab

    • Cut an ethernet cable ~7.5 inches long
      • Save the long piece for a different connector or use it for the other side of the board
    • Remove ~ 4 inches of housing
    • Strip ~ 1inch of insulation from two of the wires (brown and brown+white)
    • Trim off ~1.5 in off the other 6 wires.
      • The exposed wires wires should be about 2.5 inches long
    • Strip ~0.4 in of insulation from the six short wires
    • Twist the ends of each wire into a tight pin
    • If your wires are braided, separate them.
    • Tin the tips

    Repeat these steps for a second short cable

    Step 4: ​Connect Connectors

    To avoid shorting, make sure that the exposed pins are no longer than 1 cm (0.4 inch).

    • Take the brown+white and brown cables and connect them to Earth
      • Either wrap them through the holes on the board or attach alligator clips and clip them in
    • Insert the pins taking care not to fray the ends if you did not tin the tips
    • Attach the ethernet coupler
    • Repeat on with the other cable on the other side of the board

    Step 5: Prep Support Board

    Strain relief is important in keeping a happy board and connectors so here is how this one was made. I was in a hurry so I went the quick and dirty way.

    The support board is thick cardboard that has been cut with a Cricut Air and designed in their software. Because the cardboard was so thick, it had to be cut with 3 or 4 passes.

    This is not a long term solution, but good enough to get started. I will replace this as soon as I find a suitable piece of plastic or some 3D printer time.

    • Trace the board and connectors on a piece of paper
    • Mark where the components need to be attached to the board
    • Take a photograph of the drawing and upload it to Cricut design software
      • In Cricut Design
      • Add the photo to a new project
      • Draw a 1 inch square
      • Resize the photograph until the 1 inch scale on the drawing matches the 1 inch square in the software
      • Draw circles over the attachment point marks in the photo
      • Select all the circles and "Attach"
      • Cut the pattern

    Step 6: Attach to Board

    Now that the board is cut and the holes in the correct place:

    • Place the Makey Makey and connectors on the support board
    • Place alligator clips in the Ground/Earth, Up arrow and Click Positions
      • This will keep the Makey Makey off the support board and this will allow the clips to attach properly
    • Cut the heads off 3 zip ties
      • Place them between the Makey Makey and Support board
      • Use a small strip of tape (or glue) to hold it to the Support board if needed
    • Run small zip ties through the holes in the Support Board to loosely hold the set up in place
      • do not tie it tightly yet
    • Check that everything lines up properly
    • Tighten up the zip ties
    • Trim the ends

    Step 7: Button Fab

    I understand the practicality of aluminum foil buttons, but I wanted something a little more colorful and interesting.

    For this you will need the copper and floral wire, preferably in different colors and a set of bead or jewelry mandrels. Circle, square, oval and triangles were used here.

    Step 8: Wire Prep

    • Cut three 14-inch pieces of wire in each color
    • Take one piece of one color and two pieces of a separate color
    • Twist them at one end just enough to hold them together
    • Braid the 3 pieces together as you would with hair
    • Secure the end and trim

    Step 9: Wrap Wire

    • Take the braided wire and tightly wrap it around one of the mandrels
    • When you are happy with the loops:
      • remove the wire by gently sliding it towards the thin end
      • Use the button as is or flatten out a bit
    • Repeat with as many color and shape combinations as desired


    Most of the wires where conductive, however the green and purple wires were not. Check before making your buttons.

    If you still want to use a wire color that is not conductive, use it with two strands of copper wire. Since you are braiding them together, the copper will be conductor and the other wire will be there for color. Just test it out before you incorporate it into a project.

    Step 10: Remap

    I wanted an easy to remember set of values for the pins. So the right side was reassigned with values from A-F and the left side is numbered 1-6. The final pin out diagram can be see above. Please note that I changed the pin-out midway through this modification so some of the photos may not reflect the final configuration.

    If you want to remap you Makey Makey please visit the Makey Makey Remap page and follow the instructions.

    You will need your Makey Makey, the power cord and two clip cables.

    Happy Coding

    Step 11: Plug and Play

    This isn't intended for the average student, as half the fun is figuring out how and were to wire components.

    However, now you can quickly and easily swap between projects while you are developing them or if you are like me, while you are demonstrating the capabilities and benefits of Makey Makey to faculty and staff members that are in charge of what gets funded.

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