Introduction: Makey Makey Car Track
Simple switches added to Matchbox car-style tracks augment the car action by adding a Scratch backdrop. Create sound and visual effects. Re-create famous (and infamous) road trips. More advanced uses might include using multiple switches and Scratch to time the car’s travel on the track. Learn about the conductivity of different materials and how to build a switch; Learn to use the Makey Makey with Scratch; Create a system to time an object’s motion
Makey Makey Classic, Matchbox-style car track, 3”x5” index card, Pencil, Scissors, Copper tape with conductive adhesive, 1/4” or 1/2” width, Masking tape, Alligator clips, Matchbox-style car
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Step 1: Gameplan
An air-gap switch is simply the two parts of a switch, in our case a key press and an Earth connection, separated by a short distance. When the air-gap switch is depressed by pressing it or stepping on it, the gap is closed and the switch is closed and activated. You will construct an air-gap switch that fits on your track. Start by measuring the width of the track. Next, you will build a simple air-gap switch that a Matchbox car can drive over, completing the circuit. You can use a Scratch project with the track to add animation, sound effects, or to conduct experiments with velocity and time.
Note on standards:
These lessons were developed with the idea that teachers all over the globe and a variety of grade levels could hack the lesson plan to meet their students' needs. Therefore, these are just some of the standards the lessons are based on, and not an all-inclusive lis
Use your ruler to measure the width of the track. Mark this width along the five inch length of the index card.
Make a second mark the same width as the first. Cut both strips from the index card.
Use masking tape to affix one of the index card strips to the track.
Use conductive copper tape to build two strips on the index card, making sure both strips are connected. Try to place the strips where the car’s wheels will be when it travels over the switch. Leave extra conductive copper tape at the end of the strips to give you somewhere to attach the alligator clips.
Place the second index card strip over the first. Use a pencil to mark where the two conductive copper tape strips start on the card below.
Build two additional connected conductive copper tape strips on the second index card strip. Leave extra conductive copper tape at the end of the two strips to give you a place to connect the alligator clips.
Insulate the extra conductive copper tape on the lower strips with a piece of masking tape.
Use the ruler to help you bend about 1/8” of the second index card strip back toward the conductive copper tape strips. Bend the end opposite the extra “hookup” strip of conductive copper tape.
Line up the second index card strip over the first, conductive copper tape strips facing down. Use masking tape to affix it to the track.
Connect one of the extra conductive copper tape pads to the Earth of the Makey Makey. Connect the other tape pad to the Space key on the Makey Makey.
When the car drives over the air-gap switch, Scratch detects a Space key being pressed and animates the car Sprite and plays a sound. Additionally, it starts a timer that counts every second and displays it on the screen.
Here's an example.
Step 14: Extensions (Optional)
- Use a ruler and additional track pieces to construct a second air-gap switch one foot from the first. Assign the second switch a different key in the Scratch project. Program the second switch to stop the timer that the Space key starts. Now you will know how long it takes a car to travel one foot. Can you extrapolate the data to calculate how many miles per hour the car is traveling?
- Construct additional air-gap switches on track pieces. You can use a Matchbox car and the switches as a strange driving game controller: rolling the Matchbox car onto the switch activates a key, which you can program to move the car in a direction.
- Use connected pieces of track and switches to tell a story using Scratch. Use animation, sound, and text to tell your story.