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Hula Hoop Game Controller by Katie Butzu and Mark Lyons

Large based controller to access computer using directional keys. The student is able to access using upper or lower extremities dependent on abilities and areas being addressed. 

The Why

Katie created this project specifically for a student with cerebral palsy who needed to work on gross motor coordination and targeted reaching . In his case, reaching above shoulder level. Katie wanted more creative ideas to help him with this work. She was thinking about how much he loved race cars and wondered if she could create something with a hula hoop that would help him work on his goals like improving his range of motion and control his movement patterns? 

The invention she and Mark came up with is the hula hoop controller! By using Makey Makey, foil tape, and a hula hoop, she could make a therapeutic exercise where he worked on all the same targets, but by playing a fun computer game.

Areas Addressed: 

Improving gross motor coordination (upper or lower extremity)

  • Improving visual motor coordination and speed
  • Improving motor planning 

Intended Population:

  • Individuals with delayed processing speed
  • Neurological conditions that impact coordination/control of extremities


  • Dependent on the child’s active range of motion there are different sized hula hoops
  • Controller can be accessed from a standing or sitting position
  • Controller can be placed on floor when using to address lower limb coordination/controller with the participant positioned inside the center of the hula hoop
  • Consider the child’s visual acuity and skills when creating markings on hula hoop so they are visible and the participant can easily identify the access points


Step One: Prep the Materials

Begin by measuring and cutting 2 equal length pieces of speaker wire, the desired length is dependent on diameter of hula hoop and should measure to at least ½ the size of the hula hoop plus additional length to allow for plugging the controller into the Makey Makey.

Using the wire strippers, strip the ends of each piece of speaker wire exposing at least 1” of the wire. Pull wire apart creating 2 single wires.

Cut 4 small pieces of aluminum tape and place them at the top, bottom, left and right of the hula hoop. These will be the touch points on the controller.

Using a permanent marker or sticker, mark each aluminum touch point to identify its directional key (Top, Bottom, Left, Right).

Step Two: The Build

Now it is time to build and assemble your Hula Hoop Controller! Begin by taking 1 piece of the prepared speaker wire and place one end of the exposed wire on top of the aluminum touch point.

Taking another small piece of aluminum tape, tape down the exposed speaker wire directly on top of the touch point. Doing this will allow the electrical current to pass through and secure the connection. 

Note: Colored tape can be used to outline the aluminum touch points which can act as a visual cue to allow the participant to easier locate the targeted touch point.

Next, secure the existing speaker wire along the hula hoop using electrical tape making sure to not cover other aluminum touch point areas.

Repeat these steps on all four spots on the Hula Hoop.

*Take the exposed ends and mark each piece of speaker wire with a piece of tape to mark and indicate which wire corresponds with each aluminum touch point.

Secure all 4 wires together at the bottom of the hula hoop using electrical tape to ensure wires remain together.

Step Three: Hook to Makey Makey 

Now it is time to put your finished Hula Hoop controller in action! Begin by plugging the USB cable into your Makey Makey and hooking it to your computer.

Now using the open labeled wires with exposed speaker wire: Hook the wire to an alligator clip. You can twist the speaker wire to the clip to ensure a secure attachment. Repeat this step to each speaker wire.

Hook each alligator clip to its corresponding area on the Makey Makey (UP wire to UP input). 

Use the Anti-Static Electric bracelet, metal piece of jewelry, or attach an alligator clip somewhere in direct contact with skin to ground the participant. Hook up this grounding alligator clip to an ‘EARTH’ input on the Makey Makey.

Step Four : Play, Share, or Extensions

Now it is time to get playing! The Hula Hoop controller can be paired with any game/app with directional keys. Here are a few of our favorites:


Make Along Webinar

Learn more about how Katie and Mark use this hula hoop controller in this live workshop!

Time Investment
25-30 minutes 



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