First Projects with the Makey Makey: The Fruit Keyboard.

A gaming keyboard wired up and ready for action!

One of the easiest ways to use your Makey Makey is to hook up a simple gaming keypad with the included alligator clips. The six alligator clip spaces on the Makey Makey can replicate the 4 arrow keys on the keyboard, the space bar, and a mouse click. Any object that can conduct a small amount of electricity such as fruit, play-dough, water, or even other people, can be connected to the Makey Makey and used as those keys. When you touch the “keys” while also holding the ground wire, the computer will react as if you are using a regular keyboard.

You can write programs for the Makey Makey using included blocks in Scratch 3.0, but you can also just plug it in and use the keys right out of the box. This is what I did for my first project. I found a website that replicated a few old arcade games, plugged in my Makey Makey, and had some fun!

A noodle keyboard.

My first attempt at a keyboard was with a few leftover spiral noodles from lunch. I jabbed the alligator clips through the center and tried to play a few games. Unfortunately, this did not work very well. Noodles, as it turns out, are not meant to be repeatedly pressed. They fell apart quickly and I struggled to maintain connection to the Makey Makey. You definitely want to use something that can has a bit more structure and can hold its shape when being poked.

Playing a game on the banana keyboard

Bananas seem to be one of the most common things people use as keys when starting out on the Makey Makey. This is for a few good reasons: they conduct electricity well, they are firm enough to be used as keys, and playing a game on bananas is just plain fun! It’s hard to overstate how unique the experience is.

Playing an arcade game on a banana keyboard with the Makey Makey.

At first I had the connections clipped to the stem of the banana. This worked pretty well at first, but perhaps because of the strong spring in the clip, they wore through the bananas after a few games. Eventually I switched to just jabbing the clip inside the banana. This seemed to provide a more reliable connection.

The Makey Makey Banana Keyboard in action

The Makey Makey allows you to mix and match all sort of different things. You don’t need to only use bananas. I mixed it up a little for another game by using bananas as the arrow keys and an apple as the firing trigger (space bar).

Firing with an apple

You can see in the picture above that I’m holding the ground wire in my left hand pressing the bananas to move and squeezing the apple to fire. It adds quite a bit of fun to these classic games to mix them up with a creative keyboard.

Ready the apple and FIRE!

After playing all of those games, you’ll probably work up an appetite. That’s where your Makey Makey fruit keyboard really shines. Its the only keyboard you can eat when you’re done!

The keyboard you can eat!

Welcome to Circuits and Code

Hello and thank you for visiting this new site!

I decided to start this site after watching an excellent keynote at the 2019 RStudio Conference by David Robinson. He described the huge benefits of documenting what you are learning on twitter, blogs, videos, and even books. (The video is available for anyone interested.) Writing about what you are learning can help you understand the topic more thoroughly and also help others learn it as well.

While his talk focused primarily on data science and R, I was very intrigued about his ideas for a subject I’ve recently been learning about – electronics and microcontrollers. I’m still very new to both fields but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve learned so far. I’ve purchased some educational kits to work on and I thought it would be interesting to write about my progress as I work through the lessons.

I’m sure I’ll make mistakes along the way, but by sharing them hopefully others can learn from them – and help me do better.

In addition to documenting the electronic lessons that I’m working on, I’ll also be writing about subjects in which I am much more experienced. I’ve worked in database technology for most of my career. I’ve been writing SQL for about 15 years and have worked with many different databases. I’ve trained newer developers on optimization techniques and thought it would be fun to share some of my experiences here as well.

Finally, I also have the incredibly fun job of teaching beginning coding skills to elementary school students. Seeing kids pick up on new skills and get excited about coding is one of my very favorite things. I’ve written several lessons in Scratch and I’ll be sharing some of those here as well.

I’d love to get your feedback or questions on the posts as they come up so feel free to reach out. You can comment here on the blog or find me on Twitter at @CircuitsAndCode.