This week saw the arrival our MakeyMakey and the first time I got hands-on with the kit. Having followed the work of ADE Mark Shillitoe for 2 years, I thought it was about time I tried it out for myself. I ordered the MakeyMakey from Amazon, just over £40, and the kit comes complete with enough crocodile clips for simple projects. The instructions are clear, set up took about 5 minutes and we were up and running with a Banana Piano in a matter of minutes.
Wait a minute though, what is MakeyMakey?
MakeyMakey is an invention kit for everybody. It is a USB device that replaces keys on your keyboard. On this side of the MakeyMakey, crocodile clips can be attached to the arrow keys, space bar and mouse click functions. The other side of your crocodile clip attaches to an object which is conductive, such as a banana. When the banana is pressed, it performs the function of the key it is attached to, such as the space bar. Watch the short video below, from the makers of MakeyMakey. It shows many inventions and at the end a simple explanation of how it works.
It’s so simple. Honestly! I unboxed it with my class and set it up in front of them. That’s how useable it is! What did we do on our first day? All of the resources and games are available on the MakeyMakey website for free. That’s great, you don’t have to search around for software! We started with the bongos and 2 bananas, finding out how it connects and having fun taking turns and testing out simple theories. When using the MakeyMakey, a crocodile clip attached is attached to ‘earth’ and held in your hand, with your other hand touching the object which completes the circuit. Great for scientific discovery and understanding circuits. We all joined hands around the classroom and saw how together we complete the circuit for the banana to play music. I modelled to the children how we can make musical instruments out of pencil drawings, then left them to it with plain paper, clipboards and pencils. Here’s a time-lapse of what happened:
You will have seen the children testing out their piano designs, finding out what doesn’t work and see them head off to adapt their drawings. Most of them had to press on harder with the pencil or make their piano keys larger, but they only found this out by observing others who had pianos which worked more consistently than their own. The discussions were incredible and I look forward to capturing these on a podcast.
What Happened Next?
We needed to practise getting our pencil drawings perfected, there were lots of trial and error with how hard to press down with the pencil, how close together our piano keys should be and the size of them. I saw children present a design, test it, evaluate it and amend it.
Above is pencil drawing of a piano from one child. The crocodile clips were attached to the edge of the paper, where it meets the pencil. The children play the round keys with their fingers. The best part here, is when they forget to pick up the ‘earth’ cable no sound is made as the circuit is still broken. What will we do with it over the weeks? I’m going to stick to the music strand. We sorted conductive materials to find out which materials will work for an instrument model. Children attach the other side of the crocodile clip on to a sample object, test it to see if it plays the sound and sort by ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. What’s exciting here, is that by the end of the research, we can make a real junk model band (rather than rice in a pot with a lid and a empty chocolate tub as a drum!) Our models will actually sound like the real instrument! Here are time-lapse examples of children testing and sorting materials against the question “Will this object create music with the MakeyMakey Bongos?”:
It became quite complex, with a few children noticing that some objects are made up of plastic and metal and it depends on where the clip is attached. They sorted these samples in to a ‘middle’ group between the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ trays.
Listen to these short podcasts of their discussions whilst sorting: MakeyMakey is bringing design and technology to life, with real life testing of children’s inventions. It is bringing scientific discovery to music. It is bringing science, technology and art together too. Working with MakeyMakey is blending our curriculum like I never thought possible! Take a look at these uses for more ideas: