Exploring Circuits With Makey Makey

Objectives and Overview

This lesson introduces the Makey Makey, a project developed by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum of the MIT Media Lab and Sparkfun Electronics. As you work through these activities, you’ll develop a familiarity with the Makey Makey invention kit and basic electronic concepts.

Lesson Objectives

  • Develop a basic familiarity with the Makey Makey invention kit
  • Setup a Makey Makey with your computer
  • Check out a variety of Makey Makey projects
  • Create your first project — a drum machine

Introduction to the Makey Makey

The Makey Makey is an invention kit that creates a bridge between the physical and the digital by enabling any conductive object such as a banana to act as a keyboard or mouse. The Makey Makey is one of the most basic microcontrollers available right now and is fun for beginners and experts alike. It’s a great tool for learning basic electronics and how to work with microcontrollers such as the Arduino. Since it’s relatively easy to get started, the Makey Makey is a pathway to creating a variety of interactive projects where you can turn any object that you see into something far more!

Makey Makey Example Projects

One of the core strengths of the Makey Makey is its versatility. Because of this, there are a whole variety of example projects. The Makey Makey is used by beginners and experts alike, and there are likely many projects using the kit that you may not have considered! Here are some highlights to look at for some inspiration:

This is an interactive exhibit that youth in Austin created for their TEDxYouth@Austin event. The room is able to be played like an instrument and is powered entirely by Makey Makeys kits!

The Makey Makey can be powered by human contact as well! Here are two interesting examples of this concept:

There are several projects using fruit and vegetables to trigger sounds. Here is one example of a pepper piano:

This idea can be expanded into a collaborative project as well:

Here is a really inventive performance of Teardrop by Massive Attack. The performer, J-Viewz, uses a MaKey MaKey to trigger several sound samples.

Using the Makey Makey

There is a great number of tutorials and information on the Makey Makey homepage. Basically what you need to know to get started is that the Makey Makey plugs into the USB on your computer and then you connect conductive objects to the board in order to control various letters, direction pads, spaces, and clicks. One of the best ways to learn is to experiment with it, but here are some quick links that will help you get started:

If you find that you need some additional help after going through that page, make sure to ask program staff! You should try to get started on the Drum Machine Activity listed below pretty quickly, so if you’re stuck and have tried problem-solving, please let someone know!

The Makey Makey Kit

You’re responsible for making sure that all of your Makey Makey pieces make it back into the kit!

Don’t take single items from the kits as this is how parts get lost. If you’re working with the Makey Makey, take an entire box and make sure to put everything back in as part of the cleanup.

Invention Kit Contents:

  • Makey Makey board
  • Alligator clips
  • Jumper cables
  • Red USB cable

Note: The color of the wires/cables doesn’t matter. Any will do.

Activity: Play-Doh Drum Machine

The first interactive project you’re going to do is to create a drum machine powered by the Makey Makey and Play-Doh! Play-Doh is a great tool for interactive projects because you can create anything you can imagine. However, please make sure to put any unused Play-Doh back in the containers and close the lid to preserve the conductivity! When you’re done, think back to the conductivity lesson and try to brainstorm some other objects that could be used for this project.


  1. Get a Makey Makey kit from one of the program staff.
  2. Plan out the design for your drums. You’ll need to make 5 pads.
  3. Connect the Makey Makey to your laptop USB port.
  4. Head back to the Quick Start page (Makey Makey Quick Start) and click the green flag midway through the page to start playing!
    • This page also contains some great instructions in case you need a refresher.
  5. Begin to think of ways you can tweak your Play-Doh Drum Machine.

Bonus Question

Why is Play-Doh conductive? Think about what you learned in the last lesson and see if you can figure this out. Feel free to use Google or draw on your own knowledge about conductivity and Play-Doh! Once you have an answer tell one of the program staff!

Activity: Material Buffet

Now that you’ve made your Play-Doh Drum Machine it’s time to expand into other materials! For the rest of the session, you should select some different materials and craft another interactive project. This can be a drum machine, instrument, controller, or anything else that you can imagine. The purpose is to explore different materials and test out their conductivity while putting your creativity to the test!


  1. If you’re done with the Play-Doh, put it away so it doesn’t dry out
  2. Sketch/plan out a new device and think about the materials you’ll use
  3. Head over to the materials table and select some to experiment with
  4. Have fun! Remember to clean up anything you’re not using

Additional Resources