We were lucky enough to snag a January Instructables MakeyMakey Build Kit. We got 5 MakeyMakey kits
and thought we were in fat city. Then our weather became a reality. Our first two scheduled MakeyMakey Build nights, were cancelled by the county due to "black ice" and 4 inches of snow. The third attempt to schedule a build night also seemed doomed to the weather but at the last minute snow changed to rain and we are off and running. Problem was, attendance was much smaller than usual due to safety concerns. So we did not get the opportunity to do any real "gee-wiz"..."outta techno-sight" projects. We did have 8 kids who were mostly younger than 11 show up. We started off with the usual banana pianos demo to get things going. They had fun making a 6 kid piano where each student was wired to a keystroke function with one kid, the "player" connected to ground. By doing high fives or fist bumps they could play crude melodies. But again, not gee-wiz! A couple of older kids showed up and put together some 2D games controlled by wired hands or "keypads" made of tin foil set up on the floor. And while interesting at first, that got old fast as well. And no one thought it merited an Instructables mention.
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Step 1: Step 1: Learning and Ideation
We had several ideas and good prototype suggestions for projects but were running short on time and supplies. And while the projects were great learning tools, by discussing each one we finally got to the point that even the youngest participant (8 years old) began to understand how MakeyMakey works and how to use it. Finally one of our resident Makerspace techno-genius kids suggested we combine the MakeyMakey with a project we'd done a few months ago which involved 3D printing trebuchets, catapults, and onagers. Most all in attendance seemed to think this a fun, and potentially good, idea.... Problem was, all the devices had been taken home, to school or were in our demo box currently located in another local Makerspace. And insufficient time remained to print one from scratch. So as the last half hour of our scheduled time we came up with an intermediate solution. The idea was to use the MakeyMakey to detect "hits" on a target. Originally, we had hoped to catapult conductive clay onto a wired target and use either "drumbeats" or tones from keyboard mapping to determine scores. Minus a functional medieval weapon....we hit upon just doing "dive bombing". As simple as it seems, it became a great "hit" and the kids got so caught up in it, the library extended Open Maker hours another hour.
Step 2: Step 2: Making Targets and "bombs"
A couple of the older kids quickly made a "target" using PowerPoint making use of thick black lines. Several of the other kids then coated the black areas of the target with a thick layer of penciled in graphite. A second group cast around the space for material that would be rather elastic, i.e. stick to a target, but at the same time be sufficiently electro-conductive to allow us to complete circuits (this proved to be a very interesting learning experience as well!). We quickly hit on Play-doh which conducts sufficient electricity as to allow activation of the MakeyMakey.
Step 3: Step 3: Learning and Improving
In our first attempts, we attached paper clips to each scoring ring by cutting a slit in a ring and pushing a paper clip through being careful to keep the clip only on the area with graphite. We then clipped the included alligator clips to the paperclips sticking out of the back of the targets and attached them to the MakeyMakey. The theory was that we'd attach a very small 24 AWG braided wire 1" Play-doh ball, drop it, have it attach to the target and score the shot based on the tone generated in Soundplant using the appropriate keyboard map. Again a good learning experience. The wire, no matter how much slack we included, always "disturbed" the drop of the ball and scoring, from a 6' height, became difficult. Being mindful of the concept of using our Medieval weaponry in future build night efforts one student suggested modifying the target by putting very thin graphite bands between the scoring rings which would be directly connected to MakeyMakey ground. We did this by pushing sewing pins through those rings, bending the pins at an angle and then clipping them all together and to the MakeyMakey ground plate. The distances between the graphite lines were such that the dropped ball easily covered a scoring ring and a ground ring allowing accurate dropping and scoring.
Step 4: Conclusion
The night must have been a bit of a success because the kids begged the librarians to extend our time, much to the consternation of waiting parents. In exchange, the librarians horse-traded a few shots of their own. While not geewiz, the night did turn into a good learning experience. The kids learned about keyboard emulators, circuits, conductance of various materials (After being shown how to use it, one kid spent most of the night running around with a multimeter testing various things she could find in the space - those "learnings" will stay with her forever) and aerodynamics.
I should note that toward the end of the evening two high school kids, who are working on biomedical engineering projects, took the time to talk to the kids about potential uses for Makeymakey. They are also involved in FIRST Robotics and quickly recognized the potential use of the MakeyMakey for the development of custom designed keyboard / button pad boxes for robot control during competition. Keyboard emulators are available to these students, but the MakeyMakey is apparently much cheaper and much simpler to use. I loaned one box to them for evaluation at their next robot build weekend. This might prove interesting for Makeymakey. Who knows, maybe they could become a sponsor for FIRST Robotics!