We're stoked to announce a new milestone for Makey Makey! This month, we are celebrating 10 years of invention! From the start, we have placed a high value on learning through play and discovery, delivering tools that inspire joy and creative exploration, and supporting a community that shares great ideas. Check out how Makey Makey as a creative learning platform – and how our company – has evolved over the past decade!
Did you know that before Makey Makey was launched, it was called "Project Q"? Co-inventors (and classmates at MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten), Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, did one of their first workshops with what is now the Makey Makey board at the San Francisco Exploratorium in the summer of 2011. Eric had just completed an artist in residency program there.
In May of 2012, we ran a Kickstarter campaign to help us start producing Makey Makey en masse. In a whirlwind of a day, our project was funded by 11,124 backers in just over 24 hours! We even won the "Best of Kickstarter" award that year!
We launched our Kickstarter campaign late at night, went to bed, rushed to the airport first thing in the morning to catch a plane (headed to California for our first Maker Faire); we had no in-flight wifi, and by the time we landed, it was clear our Kickstarter was about to be funded!
Back then, we had no idea how popular Makey Makey would be!
We set up a booth for our first Maker Faire and debuted Makey Makey to the public in May of 2012! Eric ran to Trader Joe's that morning and bought almost all the bananas in the store.
Bananas became a permanent part of Makey Makey's signature at Maker Faire 2012 when Jay came up with an idea for signage that spelled out "Makey Makey" using bananas and keyboards duct taped to a fence. We still think it looked amazing! We had to ask makers in a neighboring display (who had a fire-breathing mechanical dragon) to help us cut a keyboard in half to use as the letter "K" in Makey Makey! Our debut at Maker Faire was a huge success, and we even won an Editor's Choice Award!
From there, Makey Makey grew with the support of our friends and the community that used and loved it! Our friends at SparkFun supported us by helping produce boards, and Adafruit started Makey Makey Monday to share amazing Makey Makey projects like this Make your own Operation Guide by Josh Burker.
In 2013, we set up shop in Santa Cruz, California with an office known as JoyLabz West.
Jay Silver gave a whimsical talk at Bay Area Maker Faire where he spoke passionately about turning bananas into pianos. He also spoke at length, during that talk, about seeing the "World as a Construction Kit." It's one of the ideas that continues to shape Makey Makey and guide the company.
“What is the purpose of things? Who said that was the purpose of it?” he asked. “Other people don’t have to decide the meaning of things. We can all decide.”
“I didn’t need anything special to hack as a child. I just used whatever was around. I think all children do this,” Silver wrote. “I think this is one of the most special and also least unique things about all humans: They try everything every way and have very open minds, especially when young.”
In 2013, we started noticing that Makey Makey had seeped into pop culture. Amazing online videos – and even commercials – popped up out of nowhere featuring our invention kit. Pizza Hut Canada created a "Dip Hop" video to celebrate passing a quarter of a million fans on Facebook. Kudos to the Canadians for such a fun use of Makey Makey!
Jay was invited to give his now-classic TED talk. In it, he shared with the world his ideas about learning through discovery and play, and seeing the world as a construction kit...along with some of his messiest inventions, and Makey Makey: our invention kit for hacking everyday objects.
In 2014, Makey Makey was awarded "Best of Toy Fair Award" at the New York Toy Fair. Things got (sort of) serious as we began to scale up the business in order to keep up with the growing demand for our invention kits.
Even more makers, artists, musicians, and educators discovered Makey Makey in 2014. This wildly creative musical video of "Sushi Beats, Keyboard Cats, and Wild Midi Mania" by Mark Redito (formerly known as Spazzkid) was such a success that it won Mark a Webby Award.
Makey Makey was honored to be invited to the first-ever White House Maker Faire. We showed off a fist bump selfie machine in honor of Obama’s signature fist bump. So many other amazing makers were there! Jay Silver fist bumped more important people that day than any other day of his life.
We even met and fist bumped Bill Nye!
In 2014, we partnered with our friends at littleBits Electronics in a mash-up of two of the world's most popular electronics kits that added Makey Makey capabilities into the littleBits library. The Makey Makey module for littleBits has three Makey Makey inputs, each of which can be controlled by littleBits modules like motion triggers or light sensors. The Makey Makey inputs are also connected to littleBits outputs, so you can use a banana to control an oscillator or a glass of water to move a servo motor. Check it out!
And to top it all off, Makey Makey was included in the Exploratorium's course on the Fundamentals of Tinkering in 2014. We're totally on board with the Exploratorium's approach, which encourages "learners [to] follow their own path to understanding by investigating tools and materials and exploring questions that interest them." The early video created as a resource for that course stands the test of time as a great intro to Makey Makey!
In 2015, we expanded by adding the JoyLabz East Research and Development Lab in Cocoa Beach (with an amazing sign made by local artist Jim Taylor).
Makey Makey continued to show up in unexpected places, and in 2015, it was mentioned on "The Simpsons"! If you want to check the name drop, watch the 6th episode of the 27th season titled “Friend with Benefit." The episode aired on November 2015, and in it Homer's coworker Lenny Leonard says, "Thanks to crowdfunding we have the Makey Makey Computer and the 3D Doodler pen." How fun is that? We think we're famous now!
We also launched our second product: Makey Makey Go! with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015. A simplified and smaller version of the classic, Makey Makey Go! has just two inputs and features capacitive sensing. Makey Makey functionality on your keychain: for when you're on the go, and have a project idea you need to try out right away!
By 2016, the number of educators – especially K-12 STEAM teachers – who had discovered the joyful learning experiences they could create for their students using Makey Makey, had grown too large for us to support them all on our own. We established a network of Official Makey Makey Training Partners that year. Now that program has grown to 34 training hubs that deliver professional development workshops to teachers around the US so more and more can be inspired to use Makey Makey in their classrooms.
We continued to share Makey Makey awesomeness at Maker Faire....
And, in 2016, we also started exhibiting at educational technology shows where we could share our excitement about Makey Makey directly with teachers. Those who were already using Makey Makey in their classrooms knew it as an entry vehicle to STEAM learning that's engaging and accessible to all students. Our always-popular booths demonstrated to newbies some of the many ways to integrate Makey Makey into their everyday lesson plans.
By 2017, we were not the only ones sharing our ideas for fun and engaging Makey Makey projects with the world. Educators and authors who loved Makey Makey were sharing their own lesson plans and activity guides online, through social media, and even as books. 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius, by Aaron and Colleen Graves, was published that year by McGraw Hill. Now there are over 20,000 copies of this book in the wild (and Colleen has joined our team)!
In 2017, we also launched the Makey Makey STEM Pack – Classroom Invention Literacy Kit. Designed specifically with classroom collaborations in mind, our STEM Pack includes 12 Makey Makeys plus loads of extra parts that come in handy when students want to invent something even bigger. It's been a huge hit with educators ever since!
We traveled to the ISTE conference for the first time to debut our new Makey Makey STEM Pack!
2017 was a busy year, but we still found time to share the JoyLabz / Makey Makey perspective on Invention Literacy, Creative Confidence, and techniques for empowering students to change the world! At that year's SXSWedu conference, Jay and Colleen led a core conversation on those topics. (FYI: a core conversation is a talk in which the presenters ask the audience questions!)
Now a hugely popular hour of inspiration and a great way for us to connect with our community of educators, we launched our monthly Makey Makey Webinar series in 2018. Along with the ever-expanding collection of free project ideas and activity guides on our How To webpage, the recordings of our live webinars have become an invaluable resource for teachers looking for new ways to bring Makey Makey into their classrooms.
In 2018, Makey Makey also made its picture book debut! In Shanda McClosky's book, Doll-E 1.0, the main character tinkers with Makey Makey and eventually creates a talking doll. We just love how her dog is playing a banana piano!
Nothing made us feel more like Makey Makey had achieved the status of a classic than when our invention kit was inducted into the permanent collection at MoMA in 2015. And in 2019, we were honored to have Makey Makey featured in a MoMA Exhibit on Energy.
In 2019, web-based Scratch 3.0 was introduced, and it included new Makey Makey extension blocks! We love these extension blocks – not only because they further expand our word of digital interoperability – but also because they make is so simple for Makey Makey + Scratch users to know exactly what key presses they can code! (PS: There is also a secret code extension based on the Konami code that we think is super fun!)
We embarked on a partnership with Instructables in 2019 too. By that time we had created and shared A LOT of great Makey Makey project guides on our website, but we recognized that teachers and enthusiastic makers in our community also needed some way to share their own project ideas. We launched the Makey Makey Community Hub on Instructables in the spring of 2019 to fill that need. It remains one of the best places on the web to find and share super cool Makey Makey projects and step-by-step instructions that allow others to follow your lead and build on your great ideas!
2020 – the first year of the COVID pandemic – was a year of unprecedented disruptions for everyone. While educators worked hard to keep their students engaged through school shutdowns and remote learning configurations, and parents struggled to balance working-at-home with kids in all-day Zoom classes, we switched gears to provide support in any way we could.
The hybrid learning educator resources we produced throughout 2020 included 20 different scaffolded project guides for teachers to use in either remote or in-person learning environments. We published a guide for cleaning and sterilizing Makey Makey boards and alligator clips, along with suggestions for packing and distributing invention kits for students to use at home.
Together with EPAM Continuum and our friends at Instructables, we sponsored Can't Touch This! – a contest that challenged families with kids age 18 and under to invent hands-free solutions for accomplishing everyday tasks safely. The grand prize was awarded to a middle school science teacher and his 10th and 12th grade kids for their Hands-Free Wall-Mounted Hand Sanitizer Dispenser.
Our webinar series was more popular than ever in 2020. In May we hit an all time high with over 1000 people signing up to attend our Makey Makey mash-up webinar with the team from micro:bit.
2021 brought a new phase of growth when we opened our JoyLabz PNW office outside Portland, Oregon.
While we were all still struggling with COVID-induced disruptions to the school year and the supply chain throughout 2021, it was the year that saw a renewed focus at JoyLabz on new product and software development. In May, we debuted the Makey Makey Sampler! Our first homegrown, plug-and-play web app since the original Piano and Bongos apps, the Makey Makey Sampler was an instant success!
We re-conceived the original Makey Makey Booster Kit and, in 2021, launched a brand new line of affordable, project-focused kits. Our Craft + Code Booster Kit and Get Up + Go Booster Kit were designed to expand the Makey Makey user's toolbox to include a combination of basic craft materials and hard-to-find components for creating new inventions.
In conjunction with the launch of our new Booster Kits, we introduced a collection of 7 new web-based apps that we are super proud of. Our new (and soon-to-be-expanding) library of web apps – which includes an upgraded version of the original Piano app – serve up features like timers and buzzers that can enhance a whole range of inventions. Best of all, they're plug-and-play: no coding required, so they further lower the barrier to entry for early STEM learners.