Invention Literacy Foundations: Prototype Game Controller for Makey Makey Soccer App

In this guide, you will make a few different types of joystick game controllers and then be challenged to design your own invention!

Joystick History

Joysticks were first used as controls for aircraft in the early 1900s. In the late 60s Sega introduced a two way joystick. By 1973, a four way joystick was released by Taito as part of an arcade racing game! The classic Atari joystick with a single button wasn't released until 1977. Shortly afterward in the mid 80s, Nintendo's d-pad became the standard game controller!

To start inventing your own controller, let's create both a divergent (or different than normal) d-pad controller with Play-doh and then craft a scrappy joystick with paperclips!

After creating a few examples, you will be challenged to invent your own controller like Mr. Fogle's class!


Play-doh D-pad

Create four contacts with Play-doh to control your soccer player moving up, down, left, and right.

Play doh set up as dpad. Makey Makey with alligator clips. Tablet with soccer game displayed.

To keep your alligator clips clean, consider clipping to a paper clip and pushing the paper clip into the play-doh.

Alligator clip clipped to paper clip

Attach Play-doh Dpad to Makey Makey


Makey Makey clipped to playdoh dpad

Test your controller with the Makey Makey Soccer app.

hand using playdoh dpad to control soccer game on tablet


Craft a Scrappy Joystick 

(Note: This is an adapted build from Michael Carroll's Scrappy Joystick)

To recreate an 8 point joystick you are going to create a joystick that is able to move by using a paper clip! You will also use paper clips as the conductive inputs for each directional input.

Materials for Scrappy joystick: cardboar, cardstock, foil, paper clips

Unfold the small end of a paperclip to a 90 degree angle from the large end of the paperclip. This will be our joystick base.

Paperclip unfolded

Poke this through a 3"X3" square of cardboard. (Use a pencil if you need to pre-poke a hole!)

paperclip base for joystick pushed through cardboard

Place tape over the large end on the bottom of the cardboard to stabilize your joystick.

large end of paperclip on bottom of cardboard

Take a 3" X 3" piece of cardstock and roll it up to be your second layer of joystick. Use a pice of tape to keep it together. Place onto your paper clip base.

cardstock as second layer of joystick

Use a 4" by 4" piece of foil. Roll the cardstock with the foil. You will have extra left over the end. You need it for the next step!

Roll cardstock in foil

Place the foil covered cardstock onto the paper clip joystick base. Take the extra end of foil off at diagonal to the corner of your cardboard.

foil covered cardstock placed on paper clip

Alligator clip to the foil to create an EARTH connection.

clip to EARTH
To make your directional inputs, take four paper clips and bend the larger end away from the smaller end at about a 90 degree angle and push the small end into the cardboard. 
push paper clip into cardboard
Fold paper clip in and mold the end so it is rounded and there is more surface area for your foil joystick to make contact. Plus into the soccer app and test your input!
test clip
Repeat fo the other 3 sides and test your joystick with the Makey Makey Soccer App.
full scrappy joystick playing soccer app on tablet


Invention Challenge

How does playing the same game with different controller types change the experience of the game? What other ways could you alter the size, materials, and locations of inputs to make a diverse controller?

It's time for you to invent your own controller!

  • What is your idea for a divergent controller for the soccer app?
  • What materials will you need?
  • How will the player close the circuit?

    Follow this design cycle to create your invention. Test your idea with others and share your divergent controllers with us on social media! (Make sure to ask for parent permission if you are under 18.)

     Here are even more custom controllers to inspire you from AlexVsCoding!


    Time Investment
    45 min


    • Makey Makey
    • Play-doh
    • Paper clips
    • Cardboard
    • Foil
    • Cardstock


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