A few educators on our Facebook group, took tinkering to a whole new level this school year by making their own giant Makey Makeys. Our team thought this was a great idea for teaching students about microcontrollers. Hence, we asked our Director of Creative Content to create a free guide for making your own functional gigantic Makey Makey. Let's get started!
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Step 1: Print and Mount a Giant Makey Makey
If you work at a school or have your own poster printer, print this pdf (thank you Jason Quail of Amazeum!) and mount it to foam core. If you need to get it printed, I would suggest having it mounted onto foam core at your printing facilities.
Step 2: Gather Supplies
Step 3: Create Conductive Key Presses
Create circles by using masking tape as a template. Cutting circles out of cardboard can be difficult, so make sure you use the right cutting tools! I like to score cardboard when cutting curves and circles. It's a great technique I learned from Erin Riley, check out her full cardboard technique inventory here.
Use a glue stick on the top of the cardboard circle and then smoothly adhere a piece of aluminum foil. Create two conductive circles pads, one for "space" and one for "click."
Print out an arrow from the giant pdf to get exact measurements, then cut out four cardboard arrows with Canary cardboard scissors. Use a glue stick to apply foil smoothly. Make sure the entire top surface of the arrow is covered in foil. Then using your heavy duty knife mark where you want to place your copper brads. I placed them where the holes for alligator clips are on the original Makey Makey. Press the brads through to the back of the conductive key you made. Repeat for all arrows.
Step 4: Use Exacto Knife to Mark Placement
Once you have circles and arrows cut and covered in conductive material, use a heavy duty knife to mark the placement of the copper brads on the giant Makey Makey. It is essential that your copper brads make connection to the foil on top of your cut out shape and extend to the back of your giant Makey Makey. This is how you will ensure all of your key presses are conductive. Use the heavy duty knife to mark the spot, then push a copper brad through the aluminum covered shape to the back of the giant Makey Makey board. Open copper brads on the back of the board so it will hold the key press to your giant Makey Makey, this will also be where you wire up your connections in a future step so make sure to label each key press on the back of the giant board.
Optional: You can hot glue your shapes after marking copper brad placements. It's up to you, but make sure you do not place hot glue between the copper brad and the conductive surface as this will act as an insulator. Instead, use hot glue on the underside of the key press shape when adhering it to the giant Makey Makey.
Step 5: Create a Conductive EARTH Strip
Cut a cardboard strip for EARTH that matches your print out size. For my EARTH conductive strip, I cut a piece of cardboard 22" X 1.75"
Use your heavy duty knife to make starter holes for your copper brads. Once again, I tried to match the alligator clip inputs on the original Makey Makey. Make sure to place the farthest left and right brads first to make sure your EARTH is in alignment.
Step 6: Test Conductive Key Pads You Made!
If you want to test your key presses before connecting to your giant Makey Makey and practice making connections with regular hook up wire, follow this step!
Cut about a 8" piece of wire, strip both ends, then wrap one exposed end to the copper brad on the bottom of your key press and wrap the other exposed end through a key press input. Make sure to wrap the wire tight through one hole and out the other hole on the key press, then twist the wire together and make sure the exposed wire has a good connection with the exposed metal on the key press of your Makey Makey.
Just a note: When you start programming with Arduino, Micro:Bit, or another board, you will see the term "pin." The pin on a board is what you program as an input or output! On the Makey Makey all of the 6 key presses (or pins) on the front of the board are pre-programmed as inputs. This means that when you touch an input, your computer assumes you are pressing a key! So let's see if the conductive key press you made will now function as a computer key.
Hold EARTH on the Makey Makey and tap on your key press. Did the Makey Makey light up? Good! You've made a connection! Your oversized arrow key or circle now functions as a key of your computer! Cool, right? Test as needed and then move on to the next step to wire up your gigantic Makey Makey.
Step 7: Place Makey Makey, Label Key Presses, and Map Circuit Traces
Place your original Makey Makey on the back upper right corner of the board. (I used a little roll of masking tape to hold the Makey Makey in place, but this will also allow me some flexibility to wire each key press.) Using a ruler, map your circuit traces for all of the arrow keys, space, click, and earth. Clearly label each key press on the back of the giant Makey Makey. Cut hook up wire to the length of your circuit traces, then strip ends about an inch. Wrap the exposed wire around the leg of a copper brad at each key press, then use clear tape to hold the insulated wire over the circuit traces you drew. Make sure each wire is long enough to make it to the Makey Makey and then wrap the other end of exposed wire to the matching key press. (Wrap left arrow to the left arrow input, space to the SPACE input, etc) I like to poke the wire through the right hole of the key press and bring it back through the left side of the key press. Then twist the wire together so it will stay in place AND make a good connection. (Watch this video if you need a close up for connecting hook up wire to key presses on a Makey Makey.)
Wire up all the keys and plug in the USB cable, now you are ready to Makey Makey!
Step 8: Use Your Giant Makey Makey to Teach Coding Skills!
Now that you have a GIGANTIC Makey Makey, what can you do?
Print out some oversized Scratch manipulatives and teach your kids or your students how to create simple Scratch programs that you can control with your Makey Makey!
After all, a computer is only as smart as its program!