Interactive MakeyMakey & Scratch Phonics Board

About: Hello! I'm Simon. I am a teacher who is currently working as a Professional Learning Consultant in Perth, Western Australia. I have a background in Primary School teaching with specialisations in STEM, Digit...

As a primary school teacher, I know how valuable student independence is. If the students have strategies to help themselves learn and solve problems, it's better for them and for me. The idea behind this project was to help early childhood students decode words using common phonemes.

If a student is stuck on a word they are reading, they can identify the phonemes and sound it out. If a student does not know what sound a phoneme makes, they can locate it on the touch board and hear how it is pronounced.

The phonics board integrates the MakeyMakey and Scratch. I believe that students in the early years, with some structured support, could be heavily involved in coding and creating their own phonics touch board.

Supplies:

  • Cardboard
  • Foil or copper tape
  • Sticky tape
  • Scissors
  • Sticky notes
  • Art supplies for decoration

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Step 1: Plan and Create Your Board

Get a piece of cardboard which is the desired size.

To start off, decide how many touchpads you need on your board and draw a design of how it should look. The MakeyMakey has 11 keyboard outputs so more than 11 is a little bit more complex. You should take notice of spacing so the pads aren't going to overlap and are spread out across your board.

When you are happy with your layout, in the middle of where you would like your pad located, punch a small hole in the cardboard. This side will be known as the 'front' from here on in. This can be done with a pencil but be careful.

Step 2: 'Wiring' Your Board

Turn your board over (to the back) so you can see the holes which you punched out in the last step. The next thing to do is work out how you will connect the MakeyMakey to where you will eventually put your touchpad. You are going to run some thin pieces of aluminium foil (or copper tape) from each hole to one edge of your board. The foil 'wires' cannot overlap so you have to carefully map out a plan. I'd recommend only using straight lines and 90 degree turns.

Once you have mapped out the paths from the holes to one side of the board, cut some thin strips of foil (or copper tape or wire) and start putting it on your map. You will also need to have a bit of extra foil at the hole-end, poke it through the hole so it can make contact with the touchpad. When you are happy, use some sticky tape to secure the 'wires' to the board.

Depending on how many pads you have, the back of your board will start looking like a circuit board.

Step 3: Adding the Touchpads

Make the touchpads by cutting foil to the appropriate size and shape and glue them on to the front of your board. Make sure they are in contact with the little bit of foil popping through the hole from the back of the board. If they are not making contact, the circuit will not be complete and it won't work.

Step 4: Making Your Scratch Project

Open up a new project in Scratch.

Click on the yellow 'Events' category on the left and drag the 'when space key pressed' into the workspace. Next, click on the pink/purple 'Sound' category and drag the 'play sound Meow until done' block into the workspace so it connects to the 'when space key pressed' block (I'm going to refer to this as a stack now). Right-click on the yellow block on top of that stack and click duplicate. Continue duplicating until you have the same amount of stacks as you do touchpads. For example, if you have four touchpads you will need four stacks of 'when space key pressed' + 'play sound Meow until done'

Next, you will have to record some sounds. To do this you will have to decide on which phonemes you are going to use on your board. Here is a video to explain how to record a sound and put it into your project. Next, you will have to change the 'when space key pressed' so each stack has a different event. To change the key which triggers that stack, click on where it says 'space' and choose which key you would like to use. The MakeyMakey can use the four arrow keys, spacebar as well as w, a, s, d, f and g. If you have four touchpads and four stacks, you might like to have each stack be triggered with a button press of the arrow keys. Now, each stack should have a different yellow event. One might say 'when up arrow key pressed' and the others might use the other arrow keys.

Now you have to change the purple sound block in each stack so it says the sound which you recorded. Each stack should have a different recording selected.

You can test to see if your code is working properly, click on the green flag in Scratch and press the buttons on your keyboard which you assigned at the top of each stack. Above is a picture as a reference, although, your code might look different.

Step 5: Connecting the MakeyMakey

On the top of each touchpad, stick a sticky note with the phoneme which you want to be played when that pad is touched. Then, on the back of the board, work out which piece of foil links up to which touchpad and use an alligator clip to connect the MakeyMakey to the foil.

For example, if your stack says 'When up arrow key is pressed' -> 'play sound ing phoneme until done' you will need to make sure that the foil connecting the 'ing' touchpad is connected to the alligator clip which is connected to the up arrow on the MakeyMakey.

If you have assigned the letter keys (w, a, s, d, f or g) to play a sound, you will need to use a piece of wire and plug it into the correct hole on the back of the MakeyMakey before attaching an alligator clip.

You will also need an alligator clip which is connected to the earth which does not connect to your board. This will be used to complete the circuit when people use the board.

Step 6: Using Your Board

Connect your MakeyMakey to the computer through the USB cord.

Open and run your Scratch project, make sure you have clicked the green flag before testing.

You are now ready to see if your board works.

In one hand, hold the alligator clip which is attached to the MakeyMakey earth and with the other hand, touch one of the touchpads. If working correctly, you should hear the sound which you recorded play out of your computer speakers.

Troubleshooting:

Make sure your computer's speakers are working and not muted.

Make sure that your MakeyMakey is not on a table which will conduct electricity, this might make it go crazy!

Test the connection of each touchpad individually. You can do this by looking on the back of the MakeyMakry: if a circuit is completed, a LED on the back of the MakeyMakey will light up. If this does not happen there is a problem in the connection between the touchpad and the foil 'wire', the actual foil 'wire' or the alligator clip. If the LED does light up and you don't hear a sound and you know your speakers are working, there must be a problem with your Scratch project. Try just using the keyboard to play the sounds.

By following this guide, you should be able to isolate where any potential problems might occur.

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    MakeyMakey

    25 days ago

    Great guide, Simon! Thanks for sharing this great idea for elementary teachers! We've featured it on our community hub!