DIY Big Mack Cardboard Switch by Katie Butzu and Mark Lyons

As part of our work to promote accessibility, we are offering some ideas for creating your own assistive technology. Did you know that simple items like cardboard, bubble wrap and aluminum foil can become an assistive technology  Big mack style switch? 

Switch Accessibility

As part of our work to promote accessibility, we are offering some ideas for creating your own assistive technology. Did you know that simple items like cardboard, bubble wrap and aluminum foil can become an assistive technology big mack style switch? 

Switches are a form of assistive technology, an item that can be purchased, modified, or customized to help increase, maintain or improve the functional abilities of an individual with a disability.

A switch works like an on/off button. Connecting it to a battery-operated toy or electrical appliance lets a person safely and easily turn the item on or off.

Giving access to a switch allows an individual with a disability to become an active participant in accessing the given toy or item. In this case, providing someone with a cardboard switch gives the individual access to a computer operated program and/or game.

The cardboard switches can be customized to meet the individual needs of the user whether that is the positioning, strength, even texture!

For example, a cardboard switch can be positioned on a wheelchair headrest to be used as a head controlled switch. Or it could be adapted for the individual's level of strength by adding more or less bubble wrap dependent on the amount of pressure they can apply to activate the switch.


Prep the Materials

In order to get started you will want to identify how big or how small you want your switch to be. Begin by cutting out two pieces of cardboard equal in size, these will be the outside or the shell of the switch you are creating.

Next, you will need two pieces of aluminum foil smaller than the diameter of the the cardboard pieces you just cut. Cut two additional smaller pieces of aluminum foil which will act as tabs for the switch.


Now you will need to cut two pieces of bubble wrap about the same size as the two pieces of aluminum foil you just cut but will need to cut out an opening in the center of each to allow for the foil to touch. 


The Build

Now it is time to build and assemble your cardboard pressure switch! 

 Using a permanent marker you may choose to label one tab with the word Earth and the other with the word Click or Space, this will help you when we get to hooking up your switch to the Makey Makey Classic. 

Begin by applying glue to the center of your cardboard pieces.  

Apply one piece of aluminum foil to the center area of one of your cardboard pieces. Prior to pressing the piece entirely down place one pre-cut foil tab under to sandwich the tab between the foil sheet and cardboard. 

Repeat this same process with your other piece. 

Next you will apply glue to the outer border of your cardboard piece and apply your piece of bubble wrap. 

Repeat this same process with your other piece. Note: if you want the switch to require more pressure to be applied to be activated only use one piece of bubble wrap versus the two.

Now, place one piece of cardboard on top of the other so they are sandwiched together. Ensure that the tabs are on opposite sides of the switch.


Hook to Makey Makey 

Now it is time to put your finished switch to the test! Begin by plugging the USB cable into your Makey Makey and hooking it to your computer.

Now use one alligator clip and hook it to your ‘Earth’ aluminum tab and hook the other into the designated ‘Earth’ area of the Makey Makey Classic board.

Take a second alligator clip and hook it to the ‘Space’ or ‘Click’ aluminum tab and hook the other end into the designated ‘Space’ or ‘Click’ input on the Makey Makey Classic circuit board. (This choice is dependent on the app/extension you are accessing.)

Use a rubber band to hold your switch together.


Step Five : Play, Share, or Extensions

You can ensure that your switch works by testing out your switch using one of the following Apps/Extensions:

Makey Makey Bongos (Using the ‘Space’ key)

Owlie Boo Educational Games (Using the Pressing Keys Games)

Learn more about how Katie and Mark make therapeutic exercises fun in this live workshop!


Time Investment
10-15 minutes 
Grades:
Accessibility

Welcome

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