Last fall we did a Make! program with Makey Makeys, but I never posted about it. If you’re not familiar with Makey Makey, this video explains it better than I can, but basically it allows you to turn conductive objects into keys for your computer (like up, down, space bar, that sort of thing). It sounds more confusing than it is and kids can get it up and running in a matter of minutes. (Adults, too, actually–we did a session on Makey Makey at a staff training day and everyone got the hang of it quickly. And had a lot of fun!)
We did two sessions back-to-back, with 11 kids in 4th and 5th grades followed by 20 (!) teens in grades 6 and up. The kids worked in small groups with one laptop and one Makey Makey for each group. Michelle started by giving the kids a short lesson on electrical circuits and conductivity (go Michelle!). Then we explained the basics of the Makey Makeys and worked our way up to more difficult tasks. We gave them free reign to try out what they wanted from the wide variety of conductive objects we provided (from play dough to bananas to coins).
We started by challenging the kids to complete these tasks, moving on to the next thing on the list when most groups had mastered the previous task:
- making a space
- using the up/down/left/right keys to play the drums
- making a full game controller using up, down, left, right, space and enter (the kids used the controllers to play various games, including online versions of PacMan and Whack-a-Frog)
- using the more complicated back of the Makey Makey board to control the mouse and play Angry Birds
The younger kids enthusiastically moved from one thing to the next and we got through the list with them. The teens focused on perfecting each task, so we never got to #4/exploring the back of the board with that group. By the end, the kids were experimenting with creating different types of game controllers in an attempt to make the best one. We also had a high-score board for various games, which kept them engaged.
This program was before Christmas and a bunch of the kids said they were going to ask for a Makey Makey as a gift, which was a real seal of approval! They picked up how Make Makey worked very quickly and I was impressed with their creativity in making their controllers. One group used people as conductors, high-fiving to make Super Mario jump in the air; another used pictures they drew on paper (pencil led is a conductor). It was a fun and easy program and we already have plans to bring out the Makey Makeys again this winter.