What is a Makey Makey?

Makey Makey

This fabulous device, the creation of Eric Rosenbaum and Jay Silver, is a very inexpensive way to connect kids to computing in a fun, non-threatening, and creative way.  Before they made Makey Makey, these two gentlemen were hard at work creating several other great ideas for kids and technology in the Media Lab at MIT, which is the birthplace of lots of other amazing ideas.

Essentially, Makey Makey is a simple device that connects to a computer through a USB port (almost every computer has one), and allows the creator/user to make their own creative way to control the computer.  “So what?”, you might be asking… Well, check out this video:

With Makey Makey, kids don’t do anything with software.  The setup is dead simple.  When you plug it in, the computer sees a keyboard and mouse.  Except the keyboard has 5 buttons (Up Arrow, Down Arrow, Left Arrow, Right Arrow, and Space) and the mouse can only click.  There are a TON of fun things you can do with these simple functions, and the video above outlines just a few of them.

There is also a much simpler, one button “Makey Makey Go”, which has only the Space key:

What we Like

  • Makey Makey and Makey Makey GO are relatively inexpensive ($49.95 and $19.95, respectively).  They are well-constructed, and quite durable for an exposed circuit board.
  • Makey Makey is very easy to set up and use.
  • The emphasis on open-ended exploration, tinkering and creativity make this product a clear winner.

What we don't like

  • We will feel bad if we don’t say *something* here, so let’s just say this: The biggest bummer about Makey Makey is that it will leave you wanting more.  This is a total gateway to wanting to do even bigger, better and cooler things with electronics.  There.  You’ve been warned.

What we recommend

  • This kit is simple enough to hand to most kids and let them go at it.
  • It would be a lot of fun to do with *very* young kids with a little setup help.
  • This is a good way to introduce the topic of electrical circuits.
  • Make up a challenge for your kid.  For example, can you use Makey Makey to set up an alarm when someone enters a room?  What is the craziest musical instrument you can build with Makey Makey?  What else can be invented?
  • This is a great opportunity to shift the focus of learning toward creativity and tinkering.  The best activities for Makey Makey are creative, hands-on, and involve