Our Code-a-Key Backpack (an adapter for the BBC micro:bit) is BACK IN STOCK at the Makey Shop!

Lesson Two: Hands on a Makey Makey

Learn how Makey Makey works so you can start inventing! You will, make a simple sketch of Makey Makey, use your hands to trigger Makey Makey for piano, build a human circuit, and play and explore with Makey Makey and our new apps.  

What is Makey Makey and Why Eric and Jay Make it?

Eric and Jay invented Makey Makey because they want you to understand how the world works, so you can look at the world and see it as something you can change. Essentially, the world is a construction kit! Everything around you can be used for inventing! To help you invent with everyday stuff, they created Makey Makey. Makey Makey is a circuit board that you plug into your computer and it acts like a keyboard. Each metal pad that you see on the Makey Makey is a conductive touch pad. That means the touch pads on a Makey Makey can be connected to other things to invent whatever you can dream up! The touch pads need to be connected to conductive things, and a lot of things in the world are conductive! We will test items for conductivity in the next lesson.

Invention Literacy

Here at Makey Makey we believe in Invention Literacy. It means that we think you should be able to "read" inventions so you can make new ones! Inventions are the "human made part of the world we live in." Check out this video of Jay Silver explaining his ideas about Invention Literacy or read his article on Invention Literacy here

Sketch it!

For now, let's learn to use Makey Makey with some hands-on experience. Literally!

Get out your Makey Makey, look at the front and back, maybe even draw it on a piece of paper. The experience of drawing it will help you know where all the inputs are and help you make that first step to inventing.


Plug and Play!

Find the red USB cable, plug the small end into your Makey Makey and the other end into a USB port on your computer, open up the Makey Makey piano, and use your hands to trigger the piano keys. If you need some visual help, check out this guide for first time Makey Makey set up or watch this video for new inventors.

If you are holding EARTH with one hand, you can use your other hand to touch each input (the metal touchpads) and you should trigger each piano key!

If you are using your hands to press inputs and not getting a sound, first check to that you have the USB plugged in.

If you are still having problems, you might try using some hand lotion on your hands! If your hands are too dry or there is very low humidity in your house, you might not be triggering your Makey Makey because your conductivity is low! (What is conductivity? Don't worry, we'll cover this further in the next lesson!  

Play with Materials!

Once you've played the piano by holding Makey Makey, plug in the alligator clips to something fun like bananas or ask others to try out Makey Makey and see if you can build a human piano. Have each person hold an alligator clip, and you can hold EARTH to tap each person's hand like it is a piano key!

Next up, connect to our new apps to see if you can make a lemon counter, adjustable lemon piano, or even a lemon flavored timer!



Connecting to Scratch

You can connect Makey Makey to anything controlled by your computer keyboard.

Try out this Scratch project to see your Makey Makey light up with this virtual Makey Makey. Plus, if you don't have a Makey Makey, you can still see all the key presses you control with our little invention kit.

(Note: If you want to learn more about the back of your Makey Makey, wait a bit after the green flag, and Scratch cat will ask you if you want to learn about the back of the board.)

Next Lesson?

If you are feeling comfortable with the basics of Makey Makey, move on to the next lesson on "What is conductive?" Where you will test out everyday stuff to see if it conductive or an insulator. Understanding the world of conductors and insulators will help you get started on seeing the world as a construction kit.

More Resources for First Time Users

Time Investment
15-30 min


  • Makey Makey
  • Family Members


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