Makey Beautiful Music

What can you do with a couple of Makey Makeys, music, 6 classes of 3rd graders, and 1 week? Create pianos, wind chimes, guitars, harps, dance mats, and a drum set of course!

On Monday, January 17th, I made the drive to Greenville, SC before the sun came up.  While I drove, I had many questions about the week.  Would we be able to pull it off? What if something goes wrong?  What if this idea doesn’t work? But, all of my questions subsided as soon as the first class of 3rd graders walked in the door.  I started the class by showing them how a Makey Makey works, giving tips and tricks, and then explaining to them the crazy idea that their music teacher and I had come up with.  Which was to spend the week collaborating with all of the 3rd graders at Oakview Elementary to create instruments, write lines of code in Scratch, plug them up to a Makey Makey, and then on Friday be able to play all of the instruments!  Right away 10 hands went up in the air.

“What instruments are we creating?”Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 9.00.11 AM

“Will we have enough time to do all of this?”

“Will we really be able to play the instruments?”

“What if we don’t know how to code?”

So, I started with the first question. I told them we would create a life size floor piano that they would be able to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on it with their feet, 3 Harps using copper tape, a Dance Mat with 9 different sounds, a wind chime out of laminator roles and aluminum foil, a drum set including cymbals, and 3 guitars.  Their mouths dropped open and several students whispered, “She’s crazy”. I smiled and whispered back, “Yes, this is a crazy idea and it’s going to be crazy fun! Now, let’s get started!” Quickly the whispers were replaced with nervous and excited giggles.

The students worked in small groups exploring the Makey Makeys at their seats and I started calling one group at a time to begin their instruments. Throughout the week each class focused on building a different instrument. Below is a brief overview of each groups’ hard work throughout the week.

Class Piano:

Day 1- Students started by placing 4 exercise mats together on the floor and hooking them together.  They then covered it up with a white shower curtain and taped off the different keys with duct tape to prep the piano.  They also taped off the keys on the exercise mat so they could be sure to line it up correctly once the entire piano was put together.

Day 2- Small groups of students used a ruler to measure the correct length of network cable, cut the wire, and then helped me strip both ends of the individual wires. (I wanted all students to understand the process, but to be honest I stripped most of the wires.) We ended up stripping about 3 inches of each wire from both ends. Once the wires were stripped, we started working on the first layer of the keys.  Students placed one wire on each key of the exercise mat making sure the copper wire was flat on the exercise mat. They then covered up the wire with aluminum foil and covered ALL of the aluminum foil with duct tape.

Day 3- StudentsIMG_0538 continued the process from Day 2 then started the second layer of each individual key.  They placed another wire (that was stripped so the copper wire was showing) on each of the keys, covered it with another piece of aluminum foil, and then placed a big X of duct tape over the aluminum foil so it wouldn’t move.  By using 2 layers of wires and aluminum foil it created a switch so the students could walk on the piano without holding a wire that was connected to the ground.

Day 4- Students took the original shower curtain that they taped off on Monday and placed it over the exercise mat making sure to line up all of the keys.  They then took all of the copper wires and started connecting them to one Makey Makey. They made sure to connect one wire from each key to the earth and the other wire to one of arrow keys, spacebar, or click key.  (We learned the hard way to make sure you pay special attention to the keys and attach them to the correct sound so it plays like an actual piano.)

Day 5- Play Day!

Class Harps:

Day 1- Students started by drawing 3 different harps on broken down cardboard boxes. They then cut out the harps.

Day 2- Students covered the cardboard harps with neon duct tape.  Then they ran IMG_0537copper tape from the top of the harp to the bottom of the harp on both sides making sure they had enough strings for the number of notes they wanted on their harp.

Day 3- With help from me, students cut a network cable, unwound the individual wires, and stripped both ends of each of the wires (about 2 inches).  Students then worked collaboratively in groups to write a couple of lines of code in Scratch making sure each “sound” was that of a harp.

Day 4- Students connected a copper wire to each of the copper tape “strings”. They then connected each copper wire to an arrow, space, or click key on the Makey Makey. Finally, they connected one new wire to the earth on the Makey Makey. That way when they played the harp, they would hold on to the earth in order to be grounded.

Day 5- Play Day!

Class Dance Mat:

Day 1- Students started by placing 9 small exercise mats together on the floor and hooking them together.  Small groups of students then used a ruler to measure the correct length of network cable, cut the wires, and then helped me strip both ends of the individual wires. (I wanted all students to understand the process, but to be honest I stripped most of the wires.) We ended up stripping about 3 inches of each wire from both ends.

Day 2- OncIMG_0540e the wires were stripped, students started working on the first layer of the mats Students placed one wire on each mat making sure the copper wire was flat on the exercise mat. Then they covered up the wire with aluminum foil and covered ALL of the aluminum foil with duct tape. Students did this for all 9 squares.

Day 3- Students then started the layer of each individual square.  They placed another wire (that was stripped so the copper wire was showing) on each of the keys, covered it with another piece of aluminum foil, and then placed a big X of neon duct tape over the aluminum foil so it wouldn’t move.  By using 2 layers of wires and aluminum foil it created a switch so the students could walk on the dance mat without holding a wire that was connected to the ground.

Day 4- Students took all of the copper wires and started connecting them to one Makey Makey. They made sure to connect one wire from each mat to the earth and the other wire to one of arrow keys, spacebar, or click key.

Day 5- Play Day!

Class Wind Chime:

Day 1- Students began this project by taking each of the laminator rods and covered them in aluminum foil. The teachers then took each rod and drilled 2 holes in the top of each rod.  (This is so you can hang each of the rods once the wind chime is put together.)

Day 2- Students then used a ruler to measure the correct length of network cable, cut the wire, and then helped me strip both ends of the individual wires. We ended up strippiIMG_0535ng about 3 inches of each wire from both ends. We needed one wire per rode plus one extra one to connect to the earth on the Makey Makey.  This will allow the person who is playing to be grounded.

Day 3- Students connected the individual wires to the individual rods with copper tape. Then they took the other end of each wire and connected them to the Makey Makey.

Day 4- Students worked in small groups to write lines of code in Scratch that would allow the wind chime to play when it was hooked up to the Makey Makey.

Day 5- Play Day!

Class Guitars:

Day 1- Students started by drawing 3 different guitars on broken down cardboard boxes. They then cut out the harps.

Day 2- Students took copper tape and ran it from the top of the guitar to the bottom on both sides mIMG_0552 (1)aking sure they had enough strings for the number of notes they wanted on their guitar.

Day 3- With my help, students cut a network cable, unwound the individual wires, and stripped both ends of each of the wires (about 2 inches).  Students then worked collaboratively in groups to write a couple of lines of code in Scratch making sure each “sound” was that of a guitar.

Day 4- Students connected a copper wire to each of the copper tape “strings”. They then connected each copper wire to an arrow
, space, or click key on the Makey Makey. Finally, they connected one new wire to the earth on the Makey Makey. That way when they played the guitar, they would hold on to the earth in order to be grounded.

Day 5- Play Day!

Class Drum Set:

Day 1- Students started by searching through and choosing random boxes and plastic containers to create the drum set. Each group of students focused on one part of the drum set. They worked together to mold the objects into a specific part of the drum set.

Day 2- Students continued working on their part of the drum set and added aluminum foil to their drum.  (The aluminum foil made the drum set work when tapped.) Then they helped me cut a network cable, unwind the individual wires, and strip both ends of each of the wires (about 2 inches).

Day 3- Students took the copper wires and connected them to the individual parts of the drum set with copper tape. They took the other end of the wire and connectedIMG_0536 (1) it to the Makey Makey.  I then pulled two groups of students to cover pencils with aluminum foil, connect copper wires to the pencils with copper tape, and then connect the other end of the wire to earth on the Makey Makey.  (This allowed the player to be grounded and the circuit to be closed.)

Day 4- Students worked in small groups to write lines of code in Scratch that would allow the drum set to play when it was hooked up to the Makey Makey.

Day 5- Play Day!

I must admit that each day I went home extremely tired and I had no idea if we would make it to Friday.  There were many times when I wondered if we had bit off more than we could chew. But, day after day the 3rd graders amazed me.  They came in each class period so excited and motivated that they pulled it off! On Friday, each class period had the opportunity to move around the room and play each of the instruments.  Seeing the smiles on their faces, hearing the amazing music being played, and feeling the happiness around the room made me realize that all of the hard work and blood (yes, I did cut myself a couple of times with the copper wires) was worth it.

If you are interested in seeing this project through the eyes of students check out the Greenville Schools Video of the project here.

 

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