Makey Makey: A Floor Piano

IMG_5124

With my recent purchase of the Makey Makey, I have been spending lots of time looking for various projects and creative uses for this amazing device.  The Makey Makey is a small circuit board that basically can plug into the USB port an any computer and repurpose various key presses or mouse movements.


I know, after watching that video I was pulling out my wallet to purchase one too. What a great tool to boost students creativity.

My students decided to make a floor piano based on this YouTube video they found describing a similar use.  The rest of this post will be describing how we created our floor piano to work with the Makey Makey.  All materials used were purhased from Amazon or found laying around the school.  I will provide the links to purchased items in the materials list.

Makey Makey Floor Piano

Materials List

  1. Makey Makey Kit – (Includes MaKey MaKey, Red USB Cable, 7 Alligator Clips, 6 Connector Wires)
  2. 12″ x 12″ Foam tiles
  3. 2″ aluminum tape
  4. Extra Alligator Clips – Pack of 10
  5. Duct Tape – (Already had this on hand)
  6. CAT 5 cable – (Already had this on hand)

Normally when working with the Makey Makey you attach an alligator clip to a conductive material and you hold the alligator clip that is attached to the earth/ground on the Makey Makey.  That completes the circuit and allows the Makey Makey to interact with your computer.  In this application I wanted users to be able to just step on the piano tile with their feet and complete the circuit without having to hold a ground wire or use a conductive strap.  So the design of this floor piano consists of two conductive layers separated by a non-conductive layer.  When the user steps on the tile they bridge the two conductive layers causing the Makey Makey to interact with the computer.

I chose to use foam workout tiles for my piano keys.  For the most part they worked just fine in this application.  Because they are soft, we did experience the wires getting pushed into the foam and losing connection with the aluminum tape.  It only happened once, but it is something to consider when building this project.

I chose to use CAT 5 wire for a couple of reasons.  First, I already had plenty on hand and second, when you pull the blue cover off the wires they are already twisted in pairs.  That makes it easy to have on wire in the strand be the ground/earth and the other be the conductive wire.  Again, you can use any wire you want as long as it conducts electricity.

Steps to build The floor piano

1. Poke a hole in the center of the floor tile and poke the first wire in your pair through the hole.  Strip the end of the wire so the aluminum tape can make contact.  Stick enough of the wire through so all of the stripped end is laying flat on the tile.

IMG_5114

 

2. Put a layer of aluminum tape over the wire and covering the tile.

IMG_5116

3. Complete the layer of aluminum tape, and then put a layer of duct tape over the aluminum tape.  Make sure there is a good amount of the bottom aluminum tape layer still showing after the duct tape is applied.

IMG_5117

4. Poke the second wire in the strand through the foam tile, the first aluminum tape layer, and the duct tape layer.  Again, make sure that you lay the entire stripped end of the wire down flat on the duct tape.

IMG_5120

5. Apply the second layer of the aluminum tape on top of the duct tape.  You don’t want this layer of aluminum tape to touch the bottom layer.  Make sure you leave a little bit of the duct tape separating the layers.  You don’t want the second layer of aluminum tape to be too small though or it will be hard for a user with small feet to connect the layers with their foot.

IMG_5121

6. Now just attach your alligator clips to the wires and then to your Makey Makey.  It doesn’t matter what wire goes to the earth/ground or the key press section of the Makey Makey.

IMG_5123

I used this simple scratch piano that was created for use with the Makey Makey.  You can certainly find other piano options on the web that will give you more key options and a bigger keyboard.

If you are going to add more tiles to your piano, just twist all of your ground wires together and use one alligator clip to attach it to the earth/ground section of the Makey Makey.

I hope these instructions are clear and help you recreate this project.  My students had a blast building it and showing it off at our achievement night last week.  If you have any questions about the steps feel free to contact me anytime.  If you have suggestions to improve this design I would love to hear those as well.

Makey Makey: A Floor Piano