Paper Instruments with Makey Makey

Our fun with technology never stops! Reader Project students have just finished creating unique musical instruments using the creative controller interface – MakeyMakey.

Using graphite crayons to make the contact points part of the instrument design.

Each instrument had both software and hardware elements. Students used MIT’s SCRATCH programming environment to create a program script that allowed their physical instruments to trigger sounds in the computers. Using paper, graphite, copper sticky tape (slug barrier tape) and aluminum foil, participants created final working versions of their instruments.

Using the Makey Makey control board to create a Hockey stick shaped piano
Using the Makey Makey control board to create a Hockey stick shaped keyboard

The group  had to think about instrument  shape,  sound. They also had to think about how their design impacted on the instruments playability. They used thick graphite blocks to draw the conductive contact points, (where fingers would touch the instrument to trigger the sounds), making the electrical flow route part of the instrument design!

“I’m making a keyboard because I want some piano sounds. I’m going to use copper for the black keys and the silver foil for the white keys.”

Inevitably, some of the students quickly discovered that they could use the MakeyMakey to control their online games. They now want to create games, interactive apps using their own custom controllers with the Makey Makey interface!

Makey Makey Piano
Makey Makey Paper Piano

“I like that we are able to create our own images and touch them and sound comes out, and we can get a character to move across the screen in a game.”

“We learned certain materials were better at conducting than others – I learned that the better conductors produced faster graphics and sounds.”

“Its a fun way to sneak physics into our after school club and a great way of getting both girls and boys involved in coding and the Maker movement.”

The Reader Project after school club is part of the widening access initiatives implemented by Maxine Greaves at Sheffield Hallam University. This Project is part of a wider project that shares Sheffield Hallam University research with the wider general public. The young people will give a performance using their instruments an  act as project ambassadors and sharing their learning with other young people.