Makey Makey Will Make You Love The “Internet Of Things”

A $49.95 “Invention Kit for Everybody” puts computer controllers at the tip of your fingers. Literally. No coding required.


Ever wanted to wake up in a Disney cartoon where everything around you is animated and interactive? Now you can…Turn a bunch of bananas into a piano. Turn your friends into a synthesizer. Turn a trampoline into a slideshow controller. Turn your hand into a game glove.


Makey Makey is a little circuit board that comes with a set of alligator clips. You can attach them to anything even mildly conductive (a body part, a glass of water, alphabet noodles, paper clips, Play-Doh, or fruit for example) and use that thing to control your computer as though you were hitting the keyboard or moving the mouse. The device plays well with the Arduino in case you want to attach it to simple sensors.

The not-so-secret agenda for Makey Makey, according to creators Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, is to allow anyone to become an engineer. “We want 7 billion pairs of hands making the world the way it is, not 100, not 1,000,” Silver told Fast Company. “When you’re designating meaning and purpose in the world, you’re creating value with your hands.”

Makey Makey is part of a creative and technological down-shift in which very smart electronics are dumbed down to make the world manipulable by ordinary people in ways previously available only to developers. It’s similar to Twine, another Kickstarter-funded device out of the MIT Media Lab that makes it easy to connect to the world around you via software interactions. Silver and Rosenbaum have been hacking at this problem for a few years now, and their previous efforts include the music-related projects Drawdio and Singing Fingers.

In the 14 months since the Kickstarter-funded project made its debut, 50,000 Makey Makeys have gone into the world; roughly one in five are being used in Makerspaces, for after-school programs and other educational settings. So Silver and Rosenbaum decided to hold a contest for group projects, co-sponsored by 9 Dots, a free math and science after-school program in L.A. The contest is open now: To enter and compete for $5,000 in prizes, you have to not only submit a video of a project but create a step-by-step how-to that others can follow.

“Teachers need some kind of support or activity guide for open-ended activities,” said Silver. “Otherwise you’ll end up with a lot of people leading people in a closed-ended activity. We’ve all gone through the same industrial model of schooling where we’re batched and branded; what we want to do is scaffold people toward getting groups involved in a creative activity where everyone is a meaningful participant.”


To judge by their progress so far, Makey Makey is having incredible success in that.

Here are four Makey Makey projects that will change the way you think about the Internet of things:

1. Eating the Star Spangled Banner

2. Cloud Server BLT

3. Interactive Dance Floor


4. The Human Synth

Find out more about Makey Makey.

[Images Courtesy of Makey Makey]

About the author

Anya Kamenetz is the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her 2011 ebook The Edupunks’ Guide was funded by the Gates Foundation