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Create a Controller to Plug and Play!

Learn how to make a game controller out of everyday stuff with Makey Makey!

Create Arrows, Space, and Click with Play-Doh

Using Play doh, create a d-pad with four different pieces of Play-Doh to control each arrow on your computer. Then make two balls to control space and click! 

Plug an alligator clip into each Play-Doh shape. (If you don't want your alligator clips to get junky, you could clip onto a paper clip, and put the paper clip into the Play-Doh.  

P.s. Here is a link to our Facebook educator group, so you can see some other iterations of the giant Makey Makey!

Plug into Play-Doh and Makey Makey

Plug an alligator clip into each input on the front of the Makey Makey. Be sure to match the key presses on the Play-Doh. For instance, plug an alligator clip from the up arrow on the Makey Makey (Picture 1) to the Play-Doh you created as an "up arrow." Do this for all the arrow keys, space, and click.

Make an EARTH

Plug an alligator clip anywhere along the EARTH strip on the bottom of the Makey Makey. (Picture 1)

Make sure when you are using your Play-Doh controller, you are always grounding yourself by holding on to this alligator clip plugged into EARTH.

If you don't want to hold the alligator clip,you could make a conductive bracelet out of foil or paperclips to wear so you are always grounded.

 

Plug in the red USB cable to your computer

Plug the red USB cable into the Makey Makey and into your computer. All the lights on the ARROWS and around SPACE and CLICK will flash green. If you get pop up windows asking you to install drivers, you can ignore them clicking the black X in the corner. Your computer will automatically recognize Makey Makey as an external keyboard.

Test your controller! Remember to hold EARTH and then press on the Play-Doh to see if your controller works.

While holding EARTH, you should be able to touch the up arrow Play-Doh and your computer should think you are pressing the up arrow on the computer. Your Makey Makey will light up to show which key press the object is connected to.

Troubleshooting: If your LEDS don't light up, or you don't seem to be making a connection, do a little trouble shooting.

  1. Make sure you are holding EARTH by either holding the metal of the alligator clip plugged into EARTH, or holding something conductive that is plugged into an EARTH input.
  2. Unplug and replug your red USB cable into your computer. Sometimes, you just have to unplug your red USB cable and then plug it into another USB port on your computer.
  3. Are all the LEDS going off? Either the metal tips of the alligator clips in the arrows are touching each other, or all of your Play-Doh connections are too close and are touching each other. Make sure the metal on the alligator clips aren't touching and space out your Play-Doh.

EDUCATOR TIP:

More Troubleshooting tips!

I can't get a key to press!

  • Make sure your Makey Makey is plugged into the computer.
  • The Makey Makey should have a red light on the back showing that the power is on. Is it lit? If not something is wrong with the computer, the USB cable, or the circuit board.
  • If the USB connector on your computer is blue, it's USB 3.0, and may not work with Makey Makey. Try using a USB 2.0 port.
  • Try making a connection in the simplest way you can. One way is to connect an alligator clip to "earth" and then touch other end to "space."
  • When you make a connection, you should see an LED light up on the front of the Makey Makey
  • When you are making a connection using everyday materials they need to be at least a little bit conductive. For example, play-doh, a banana, your skin, or aluminum foil should work, but plastic, most fabrics or paper will not work directly. You can always combine materials, for example by wetting the paper or putting play-doh onto the plastic.

One of the keys won't stop pressing over and over! What should I do?

  • Try unplugging the Makey Makey from your computer, then plug it back in again
  • Disconnect all of you alligator clips from the Makey Makey, then start reattaching them one by one
  • If your stuck key is still pressing, have a look at your connections. They might be touching accidentally somehow. Try taking things apart and putting them back together again.
  • Perhaps one of the things that you are using as an insulator (or non-conductor) isn't insulating enough. Try using a different material.
  • If one of the objects connected to the Makey Makey is your own body, then perhaps you are "grounded" to the earth via touching your computer's metal case, or by not wearing shoes. Take a step back and see what you are touching.
  • Perhaps one of the objects connected to the Makey Makey that you think is well insulated is not. For example, if you connect a banana to your Makey Makey and it's sitting on a wooden cutting board, is that cutting board moist or dry? If it's moist then perhaps all of your bananas on the cutting board are connected to each other through the cutting board. Try a dry table instead.
  • Is it raining? Is it extremely humid- are you in a rainforest? This can sometimes cause porous materials, such as paper or clothing, to become conductive.

It works sometimes, but not other times.

  • Your materials might not be conductive enough. For example, if you are making a connection with your fingertip, it can help to moisten your skin by licking it.
  • If you are using a drawn graphite line from a pencil, make sure the line is heavy and dark. Draw your line on a hard smooth surface, such as a table without any grain in it. Take care in folding the paper, because it can sometimes break the graphite connection. Once you are expert at drawing the lines, you don't have to follow any rules, but if you can't get it to work try the tips mentioned.

 

Try out other materials

Try out other materials! Everything in the world is either conductive or an insulator. What other materials can you use to make a game controller? Can you play games with donuts? Jello? Fresh flowers?

 

Wire up all the keys and plug in the USB cable, now you are ready to Makey Makey!

Extensions

Now that you've created a game controller, why not make your own game? Head over to Scratch.mit.edu, and create your own game to work with Makey Makey!

Other related guides:

Time Investment
Up to 1 hour
Grades:
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

Supplies

  • Makey Makey
  • Alligator Clips
  • Paper or cardboard
  • Everyday stuff like Play-Doh, Donuts,Glasses of water
  • Fun blog about conductive items!

EDU Standards

Next Generation Science Standards: MS-PS3-5(Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.)

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