Makey Makey Back of the Board Tutorial



Less than 1 hr

Introduction: Makey Makey Back of the Board Tutorial

About: Computers are going bananas! Use #makeymakey to practice invention literacy and connect the world to your computer.

Ever need more inputs for your inventions? Are you curious about how to use the inputs on the back of your Makey Makey? This guide will show you how to navigate the back of your Makey Makey and explain how to use the OUTPUT header.


Makey Makey Classic, alligator clips, jumper wires, Play Doh

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Step 1: Back of the Board: Intro and WASD

There are four headers on the back of your Makey Makey. First, let's look at the left header which allows you to control WASDFG. To access these input "pins," you need to use the small white jumper wires in your kit. You simply put the wire in the header, and then you can connect an alligator clip to the other end of the jumper wire, or you can cut a piece of longer hook up wire, or whatever you'd like to use to connect this input to your everyday conductive material.

If you don't like this letter combo, you can always remap these pins here:

Educator Tip:
Curious about why Makey Makey used this letter combo? These keys are standard controls in a lot of online games. We think that might be because they are the keys furthest to the left that will allow you to control movement with your left hand, while your right hand uses the mouse. In most of these games, 'W' moves your character up, 'D' to the right, 'A' to the left, and 'S' moves your character backward. Wanna try it out? Here is a whole studio in Scratch with WASD games!

Step 2: Back of the Board: Output

The first video explains WHY you should not use the 5V out pin if you have an older Makey Makey. It is best to use the KEY OUT pin for output on any version.

There are a couple of different versions of Makey Makey, but all Makey Makey have these pins: KEY OUT, MS OUT, GND.

Here is what they do:

KEY OUT: This will send voltage out if you press any key on the Makey Makey. (Arrow keys and WASDFG)

MS OUT: This will send voltage out if you interact with any of the mouse inputs. The mouse inputs are all available on the right header on the back of the board. (We will explore those on step 5!)

GND: This stands for "Ground" and functions as another way to use EARTH input and complete your circuits. You can use the GND for EARTH or any of the EARTH inputs on the bottom row of your Makey Makey.

In the second video, you will learn how to create light up an LED by pressing any key on the Makey Makey.

  • Put a jumper wire in KEY OUT and connect it to an alligator clip and the positive leg (the longer leg) of an LED.
  • Connect an alligator clip to EARTH and connect the other end to the negative leg of the LED.
  • Once this is connected, test your connections by holding EARTH with one hand and pressing on any key press.

Educator Tip:

The voltage on the constant "5V" pin is too high for a regular LED, please teach students how to use the "KEY OUT" pin and how to build a switch to make the light come on.

The OUTPUT header on version 1.2 has: KEY OUT, MS OUT, 5V, GND, PGD, PGC. The PGD and PGC pins should never be used. You can use the 5V pin to test motors, but we do not suggest you use the 5V voltage pin for LEDs without a resistor in place.

The OUTPUT header on version 1.4a has: KEY OUT, MS OUT, GND, GND, GND.

Step 3: Optional: Outputs and Motors

You can control some motors with Makey Makey! The best motors for Makey Makey are harvested from old computer DVD drives!

You will wire it by connecting one connection on the motor to KEY OUT and the other to EARTH. On a motor, it doesn't matter if you connect the red wire to KEY OUT or EARTH. It just matters that you connect one wire to positive (KEY OUT or MS OUT) and one negative connection (GND or EARTH.) The way you wire it decides which direction the motor will spin.

Watch the second video to see how Aaron and I made a Makey Makey spin art machine for our Evil Genius Makey Makey book.

Step 4: Back of the Board: Create a Switch

You can create a switch just like you would create a switch for any project, by connecting one KEY input to a conductive item (like a banana or Play Doh) and one EARTH input to another conductive item. When they touch, you close the circuit and this sends a signal back to the computer that a key has been pressed! If you use this with the OUTPUT function, it also sends a signal to open the electrical flood gates for the KEY OUT pin! Thus, CREATING LIGHT!

Watch the video to make a simple Play Doh switch, then start playing with materials to make your own switches!

Step 5: Back of the Board: Mouse Control

You can also use the output to light an LED (or power a motor) by using the MS out pin on the top header and using the Mouse controls located on the right side header.

To control the mouse with your Makey Makey, you have to use jumper wires in the right header.

The up arrow on the head, controls mouse movement up, the down arrow controls down, etc. The 5th pin controls "right click" and the last pin controls "left click."

By using the MS OUT to power an LED, it will only light when a mouse input is read on the Makey Makey. The Mouse inputs are all on the right header and also include CLICK.

You can power two different light sources (or motors) by using KEY OUT and MS OUT.

Educator Tip:
Here are three ways to program CLICK with Scratch!

Step 6: Extensions

Now that you know how to use the back of your Makey Makey, what will you create? Here are some guides you might be interested in for going further!

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