Makey Makey: An Invention Kit for Everyone
Computer technology is no longer a territory exclusive to adults. In modern days where everyone has easy access to information, children are encouraged to know and understand how everything works in early years. In schools and homes, they have access to modern devices and the chance to develop their creativities in many different ways. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets offer an advanced learning process about school lessons, everyday activities, social life, and basically everything children need to know. JoyLabz takes a different approach on this technology-based learning process for children; instead of only relying on technology, the company encourages children to play and modify how their computers work with Makey Makey, an invention kit for everyone.
A package of Makey Makey contains a printed circuit board, 7 alligator clips, a USB cable, 6 additional wires, and instructions. The main purpose is to take over the functionality of computer keyboard and mouse, replacing them with everyday objects such as foods, coins, aluminum foil, water, etc. As long as the objects conduct electricity (pretty much anything does), Makey Makey will work. It extends keyboard and mouse functionality to the real world. This kit remaps keyboard keys in many different ways, limited only by children’s imagination.
- Pros: children can experiment with plenty of different objects in real world and learn to understand how computer keyboard works. Any physical object can conduct a little bit of electricity, and this is all that Makey Makey needs. There is no risk of electric shock.
- Cons: for the keyboard remapping to work, you need to attach one wire to the body. You need to close the circuit (or ground it). This is not a complicated process, but can be cumbersome for a kid.
The main part of Makey Makey is the printed circuit board, which connect to computer via USB cable. On one side, the board is printed to resemble key configuration of game console joystick. On the other side, it provides more detailed printing to take over more keyboard keys (W, A, S, D, F, G, H, J) and complete mouse control (left click and right click) and arrow keys. Most games or applications for children only use small number of keys indeed, and the kit covers the needs well. This circuit board runs on top of Arduino, so it does everything that an Arduino board can such as controlling LED lights or spinning motors.
An alligator clip connects a port on the circuit board to a physical object. As you press (or touch) the object, the computer will think of it as a keystroke and perform the associated function. There is no need to rewire or remap the keyboard in complicated way; just plug in the USB cable and you are good to go.