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Fun Fact Friday: Switches and Sensors

January 15, 2021


 Image from Lighting an LED with Makey Makey

Switches and sensors can be found nearly everywhere in our daily lives. You’ll find them in your home, at work, in your car, along or even in the road, in nearly every electronic device you own, and the list goes on. Learning how to make your own switches and sensors out of basic materials is a foundational “Maker” skill.

That's why we are sharing loads of ideas for switches and sensors for this week's Fun Fact Friday!  

Vocabulary: A switch is a component that requires a physical action to close a circuit. Just like the keys on your keyboard! A Switch can be momentary or maintained.

When you play the drawing piano you are the EARTH connection that closes the circuit as you press on each drawing to make each piano key sound.

The same is true for the banana piano! Each banana is mapped to a keyboard key, and you are physical action that closes the circuit!

What if you want to create a switch that does NOT require bare skin to complete the circuit? Well you came to the right place as that is what this Friday's post is dedicated to thinking about!

We wanted to share a big list of some of the various types of switches you can find in the world. The best way to become invention literate is to start exploring how the world works! Check out these videos of switches and sensors and then try crafting and designing your own switches using basic materials and tinkering with variations of the ideas in these videos. 

Hinge Switch (push & return)

This is similar to the switches for this popular guide to making a classroom exit ticket tracker!

Slap Switch

John Lynch created a really great durable slap switch for his work in Explode the Controller workshops (Read a previous post here.) Check out this full guide on creating a slap switch by John Lynch. 



High Five Switch (similar to the Slap Switch)

Scratch code for the project above is HERE

Colleen used this idea to make a wearable "pat on the back" Makey Makey lab coat!


Pressure Sensitive Switch

If you want to make a sturdy version of this that you can adjust the pressure sensitivity, check out this guide for the Ultimate Stomp pad.

Hmmm.. now what could you do with a stomp pad? HINT: You could make four of these for some Dance Dance Revolution mania with this Scratch project by Ricarose.

Designing and Crafting Simple Switches

Make some simple switches by drawing your inputs or use paper clips! The first class in our intermediate course is a fun experiment with crafting and designing switches! See the full guide here

Want more info our intermediate course? Check out this post.

Water is Rising Sensor

This is a cool switch for weather systems, but can you think of other ways this switch could be used?  

Tilt Sensor

Here is a quick tilt sensor made with cardboard and foil. What type of game would you create for this? What type of science experiments could you do with a tilt sensor like this?

A Slightly More Complex Tilt Sensor

We designed another recycled tilt sensor for our intermediate Makey Makey course this summer using only a toilet paper tube, foil, paperclips, and a marble! Check out the full guide here. (Want more info our intermediate course? Check out this post.)

An Even Slightly More Complex Tilt Sensor

Use a pool noodle to design an encased tilt sensor. Make your own balance games, or think of new ways to make a tilting sensor. Here is the full Instructables guide to making your own pool noodle tilt sensor.

Taste Switch

Jennifer Schank made this switch as part of her work as an occupational therapist to help a client that had a sensory defensiveness against taste.  (Read more about Makey Makey Ambassador Jennifer Schank here.)


Who doesn't love a good DIY joystick?


Switch Examples from a Game Controller Workshop

These are some pretty phenomenal switch ideas from a game controller workshop by AlexvsCoding.

Find and play a game

Now that you have a lot of ideas, build a switch and find a game to play or control!

Google the phrase "one switch games" or "one button games" to find a game to play with your DIY switch.

Here are a few one switch (one button) games to get you started:

    • Flabby Physics
    • Play.gl (Play this game with the space bar) The Instructions are in French,, but you have to figure out how long to hold down the Space bar to get the ball to jump safely from one platform to the next.
    • Geometry Dash Use the space bar to jump and fly!
    • Flappy Bird  Use the space bar or click to play this viral game!
    • Crossy Duck Press or tap space to flip the duck!

We update our plug and play app page regularly too, so it is always a good place to check for Makey Makey friendly apps!

Share your switches with us on social: 

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