In Patti Blegen’s 8th Grade Project Science course, students have been experimenting with creating machines and designing projects using a whole range of materials. At the end of the semester, they began using a set of MaKey MaKey computer interfaces to build their own game controllers.
The MaKey MaKey is a USB input device with connecting wires. Students attach the wires to conductive materials, and ground themselves to the unit, and can send input to the computer using whatever materials they’ve collected. In one example, students drew a piano on a piece of paper and connected the lead wires to the graphite on the drawing. As they loaded up a piano simulator on the computer, they were able to trigger the piano sounds by touching the drawn-in keys on their paper.
In another example, students were able to mold buttons out of conductive clay to create a game pad, similar to a video game console controller. In the background of the picture to the right, you can see another group experimenting with pie tins as a controller.
U Prep’s new Maker Lab (named “the Sandbox”) has a collection of MaKey MaKeys for students to use as programming tools. As part of our growing Computer Science initiative, the use of MaKey MaKeys and other tools to help students design computer projects will be used throughout the Middle School curriculum, as well as in extracurricular clubs and offerings next year.