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Students design and make controllers with clay, Play-Doh, bananas, or whatever they desire and link their controller through circuits to their laptop with this innovative circuit board kit.

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Created by
Agustin Molfino
Curriculum Writer

MAKEY MAKEY overview

MaKey MaKey is a circuit board kit that can be used to connect objects with a computer, transforming those objects into computer keys or mouse clicks. With MaKey MaKey, students can playfully invent new devices, instruments, and controllers, or remix familiar objects - as long as they are adequately conductive. For example, bananas can become pianos, or Play-Doh can be shaped into Nintendo controllers. With these inventions, students learn about the fundamentals of circuits and gain insight into how their computers work.

MaKey MaKey allows for the easy creation of basic circuits and gets students familiar with the basic components of a circuit (power source, wires, input and output) and how circuits interact with computers. Since MaKey MaKey also hooks up to computers, the possibilities are limitless for students interested in getting more experimental. Students can find new programs to control and new objects to use as controls, as well as design new software that can interact with the kit. In this way, MaKey MaKey acts as both an introduction to circuits and a tool for invention. This extends the learning goals of MaKey MaKey to computer programming, engineering and design, and art.

The MaKey MaKey website provides suggested software to use with MaKey MaKey.

Kit includes:
  • MaKey MaKey circuit board
  • Red USB Cable
  • 7 Alligator Clips
  • 6 Connector Wires
  • Quick start guide


  1. Plug in USB: Small side of USB cable plugs into MaKey MaKey, big side plugs into computer.
  2. Close Popup Window: Your computer may ask you to install drivers or do other setup. You can click cancel or close the window.
  3. Connect to Earth: Connect one end of an alligator clip to "Earth" on the bottom of the front side of MaKey MaKey.
  4. Connect to yourself: Hold the metal part of the other end of the alligator clip between your fingers. You are now "grounded."
  5. Connect to anything: Make anything into a key! Connections can be made through anything even slightly conductive.
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Experience breakdown

Makey makey intro

Lesson Plan Overview

MaKey MaKey provides students the opportunity to be engineers without needing to be experts in electrical engineering. By participating in a creative design process as MaKey MaKey engineers, students reimagine how they might interact with computers they use daily. In this case, we found that students were highly engaged in the design process of creating a video game controller and, through that process, were able to begin to grasp the concept of circuits.

Students research the topics of ergonomic and industrial design and the history of video game controllers. They then sketch out a variety of possible designs. Finally, they make their designs with clay, Play-Doh, or whatever they desire, play-test their designs with other students, and make the proper adjustments based on that feedback.

Learning ObjectiveS

● Define the tenets and processes of industrial design with an emphasis on ergonomics.

● Sketch and create video game controller prototypes.

● Assess the prototype designs through user testing(observation, survey, focus groups).

● Modify designs based on user testing.

Lesson Steps Version 1

Design a new, more ergonomic or functional video game controller using clay, Play-Doh, or other material: 

Note: There are many video game options online. Here are a few good resources: NES gamesKongregate, and Newgrounds.

  1. Students research the fundamentals of industrial design, particularly the history of controller design across platforms.
  2. Students should also take into consideration the design and style of the video game they are designing around.
  3. From their research, student groups sketch designs and decide on materials for their own controllers.
  4. Students create a prototype controller (or many). Students test  their prototypes with other students, gather feedback (e.g. survey, focus group), and redesign.
  5. Teacher facilitates discussion on students' experiences and thought processes, in particular how they incorporated their initial research and play-tested research into their designs.

By the end of the process, students will have a video game controller optimally designed for their class and will have gone through the design cycle process.    


Makey Makey circuit board


Students use MaKey-Makey to create video game controllers from objects like bananas or Play-Doh.

Lesson Steps Version 2

This facilitation idea was conducted at the PlayMaker school in Santa Monica. Students used MaKey MaKey to create controllers for their computer games.

STEP 1. Show the video of MaKey MaKey to introduce students to the kit. The video shows the variety of ways MaKey MaKey can be used and its very basic functions.

Makey Makey Introduction

STEP 2. Students then open up a digital game on the computer that can be played on the keyboard. As an introduction to MaKey MaKey, we chose an airplane scrolling shooter game, the controls of which are mainly the arrow keys and space bar. First, have them play the game without using the MaKey MaKey to get comfortable with the game mechanics.

Student groups first play a video game using the standard controls (keyboard and mouse).

STEP 3. Then have them connect MaKey MaKey to the laptop and create alternative controls using the MaKey MaKey alligator clips and some sample items. We offered a few supplies that they also saw on the video, such as Play-Doh and bananas.


A sample of some materials we used. Not pictured: Paper, graphite (pencil lead), and tin foil.

STEP 4. Encourage them to think outside the box and to use everyday items as inspiration for their controls or to mold the Play-Doh into creative shapes. In the video below, the teacher shows how conductivity of the MaKey MaKey kit can travel from person to person to person.

Makey Makey PlayMaker

In another example of student creativity, they connected the alligator clips to four pieces of tin foil and placed the foil on the floor to act as directional controls. They then connected another alligator clip to a banana and used the banana as the space bar to shoot missiles.


STEP 5. Ask students, "Does your new controller makes the game easier or harder? Is the game more fun or less fun with their new controller?"

STEP 6. Then ask them about different materials that may work with the alligator clips. For example, ask them if paper can work  by itself with the alligator clips. If it doesn't, what can they do to make paper operational with MaKey MaKey?

NOTE: For this step, one student came up with the idea that graphite, which is in the lead of mechanical pencils, can conduct electricity. Thus, he postulated that if he etched graphite on the paper, he can connect alligator clips to the areas of the paper with graphite and the MaKey MaKey controls would be operational.


MS-ETS1-1.Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.

MS-ETS1-2.Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

MS-ETS1-3.Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

MS-ETS1-4.Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

ISTE NETS - Digital Age Skills

1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes 
Create original works as a means of personal or group expression
Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues
Identify trends and forecast possibilities 
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation
Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions
Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions
6.  Technology Operations and Concepts
Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
Understand and use technology systems
Select and use applications effectively and productively
Troubleshoot systems and applications
Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies
topic discussion
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