Workshop at el Garage

Last week Tom & Liam travelled to Mexicali, the capitol of Baja California, Mexico, to teach a workshop to elementary school teachers and makerspace volunteers at el Garage Makerspace at the Universidad 16 de Septiembre. The workshop was organized with support from the US Consulate in Tijuana who's promoting STEM educational initiatives in Mexican schools.

Preeti Shah from the US Consulate

The workshop opened up with a really nice introduction from the founder of the university, Manuel Ruelas Jiménez. Preeti Shah from the US Consulate spoke about their STEM education initiatives and Andrés Ruelas, founder of the makerspace and Manual's grandson, talked about their mission at the Makerspace.

As the workshop got underway, Liam sat down with members of the university and the consulate to speak with the local media.

El Garage will continue hosting Makey Makey teacher trainings for educators in Baja. Teachers who attended the workshop will use Makey Makeys with their classes in a design challenge organized by el Garage Makerspace - we can't wait to see what they invent!

If you're interested in taking a Makey Makey teacher training, find a training parter near you!

Makey Makey Match in Effect

Send our schools some love this Valentine's Day

Now more than ever, schools around the country need to feel our support. Perusing the campaigns on DonorsChoose is a tour through the vital requests of classrooms across America.

Give $35 or more to any classroom through DonorsChoose this February and we will match your gift with a free Makey Makey to that classroom.

Just tweet us your receipt, post it on facebook and tag us, or email us and we will send that classroom a valentine Makey Makey.

We can only send 1 kit per classroom, a max 100 Makey Makeys, and the Makey Makey for Dollar Match expires February 28th.

See Us at SXSW!

This year we'll be at SXSWedu and SXSW Create!


Jay is on the panel Reaching 95% Invention Literacy
March 8th, 2:00PM

Jay is on this panel with Maker/Librarian Colleen Graves. They'll talk about what Invention Literacy is, why it's important, and how all types of educators can bring it into what they teach.

Liam is on the panel The World Needs More Inventors, Starting With Kids
March 9th, 11:00AM

Liam joins Danielle Applestone of Other Machine Co in a discussion moderated by Emily Pilloton on how to inspire our diverse world to be more creative and engaged in STEM education in the classroom and beyond.

SXSW Create

After edu, the rest of the Makey Makey family will rendezvous in Austin for SXSW Create! The hardware hacking and maker arm of SXSW. It's free and open to the public, so drop by and see us if you're in Austin!
Friday, March 10 – Sunday, March 12, 11:00AM - 6:00PM

You can find more info on SXSW Create here.

photo by Merrick Ales

Wired Science

Dave Barton chats to game design professor and pro maker/coder/creative, Jerry Belich, about his interactive gaming workshops and how Makey Makey helps lift the ‘fog of understanding’.

It’s always reassuring to discover that those teaching you aren’t just accumulators of knowledge; they’re active participants and practitioners of the craft they’re so passionate about.

Deep in the American Midwest you’ll find Miami University (the Ohio one). And it’s here that Jerry Belich, a game design professor, continues to inspire, engage, and educate students with his infectious enthusiasm for interactive gaming experiences.

A seasoned games designer, who’s also pursuing an MFA in Experience Design, Jerry’s been creating video games since high school, studying computer science and theatre at college, before embarking on a career in mobile development and digital marketing. He’s now teaching classes and running workshops on alternative controller design.

“My job at the university is pretty much the culmination of everything I’ve done in my career so far,” he says “I love creating experiences for people, telling stories, weaving narratives, and learning to create things people want to engage with.”

Jerry’s focus is on deconstructing existing games and getting students to understand the player experience, primarily using Teensy microcontrollers and Makey Makeys for alternative controller workshops.

“I really want students to start prototyping ideas as soon as they have them and begin building completely original games. For teaching, Makey Makey is priceless. It does such an excellent job of stripping away the fog of understanding: the scary bits about working with electronics, electricity, and even code.”

To explain his approach is, he gives the example of a workshop he ran as game designer-in-residence at Eastern Kentucky University, involving both adults and children.

“For the kids it was about giving them building blocks to understand ways to bring their ideas to life,” he says. “But most of the adults who came to the workshop had never worked directly with electronics, and were a bit embarrassed about how little they understood. But using tech like Makey Makey gave them small victories to get over that block.”

Armed with a box of Teensy microcontrollers, custom firmware, a few Makey Makeys, and lots of cardboard, wire, buttons, switches, and copper tape, the Kentucky workshop group created a four player ‘fencing’ game. Using wands tipped with tinfoil, players stabbed at a hanging ball after pressing buttons with their feet.

Here are some pictures of the game.
“A super simple computer app was made, using Sketch, to keep score. It was all possible with the Makey Makeys. They really helped to stimulate the whole group’s appetite for creativity,” he explains.

As Jerry continues to explore what he calls ‘the unique Venn intersection of game design, storytelling, and making’, his passion is also fuelled by a number of side projects -- including an interactive fiction arcade called The Choosatron, which started as a personal project, but has since gained over $75,000 of Kickstarter funding. Not bad considering the original goal was $22,000.

It’s being able to bring ideas to life that continues to send Jerry deeper down the rabbit hole of mad science.

“Teaching is going to be my bag for a while. The experience has allowed me to interact with other creators and students from all over the world, sharing everything I’ve learned and discovered. I'm just so excited to help teach game designers how to DESIGN.”

Thanks Jerry! Keep us in the loop on any other neat stuff you and your students bring to life.

Want to follow Jerry? Find him on Twitter @j3rrytron and check out his website:

Original Packaging

This week Jay sent around an email with the original list of sayings put together for the Makey Makey packaging in 2012. It's funny to see what's still around and what has faded into the background over the years.

Anyway - here's the list!

  • What is Civil Disobedience in a digital era?
  • Be stoked
  • The World is your Construction Kit
  • Search the internet for: Sir Ken Robinson cartoon
  • "[I] don’t ask what the world needs. [I] ask what makes [me] come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman
  • Warning! Extended usage may result in creative confidence!!!
  • Search the internet for: TED Makey Makey
  • Warning! If you remake your world, some governments and corporations may crumble!!!
  • Consume Makerism
  • Paths through life are as many as humans in the world!
  • Is love the answer?
  • What can I make in the next 3 minutes?
  • Pardon me, but my Banana Piano is not for sale!
  • I care
  • Image Search the web for: Andy Goldsworthy
  • Makers: Humans who Change the World one Tiny little Piece at a Time
  • The world I want to live in is one made not by 10 scientists, 100 designers, or 1000 politicians, but one built by Seven Billion pairs of hands
  • What can I make for a friend that would make them cry from happiness?
  • Feel it, think it, say it, write it, build it, change the world!
  • My mom is a maker
  • Learn How to Learn
  • Search the internet for: Maker Faire
  • Your simple daily and nightly self determination may very well change the course of history
  • Banana ________
  • What can I make to get the world laughing?
  • What happens when I touch a flower?

Makey Makey Labz

Introducing. . . Makey Makey Labz!

We're launching a new platform for Makey Makers to peruse and create project guides!

Go beyond the banana piano by exploring guides made by inventors around the world - from powering a reading lamp to making your own computer powered board games.

Explore Makey Makey Labz!

Beta Testing

Makey Makey Labz is still in beta, so there are parts of the platform that'll changing - and we'd love to hear your thoughts about it!
To report bugs or suggest changes, please email


If you're a teacher you can set up your class in Makey Makey Labz and assign step-by-step guides to your students! Choose from tons of pre-written lesson plans, write your own, or modify pre-existing projects to work for your classroom.

School Support
- Browse through tons of lesson plans created by us and by other educators from around the world
- Set up a classroom with student logins and assign activities, track progress in real-time, and review student work. - Sign in with your Clever account.
- Filter projects by CCSS and NGSS standards
- Create a private activity and administer it to your class without sharing it to the entire community.
- Document your inventions and post project guides
- Show off your inventions in the gallery
- Ask questions and share tips through comments

Here's a screenshot of a Labz guide

Q&A With Makey Makey Jedi Colleen Graves

Watch the Q&A from Jan 11th!

We sat down and chatted with our friend Colleen Graves who is a high school librarian and blogger, obsessed with Learning Commons transformations, Makerspaces, Makey Makey, technology education, making stuff, and getting girls involved in STEM. She offers the unique perspective of starting/creating two different makerspaces and Girl STEM groups in established public schools. Colleen writes and presents about creating Makerspaces in the book Challenge Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace. Plus, she collaborated with her husband to create a Makerspace project book for makers of any caliber that is peppered with classroom tips: The Big Book of Makerspace Projects: Inspiring Makers to Experiment, Create, and Learn. Plus, she and her #superlibrarianhubs are currently working on finishing up 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius.

Thanks for watching!

Meet Argentina’s Punk Grannies

Virginia Francia is an Italian artist working on an intriguing maker-tech-art fusion project; empowering elderly Argentinians to overcome their fear and frustration with technology by embracing the cathartic power of punk music. Using plants as instruments... Dave Barton found out more.

Elderly people? Playing punk music? On plants? Please explain!
I got tired of seeing socially-based art projects where artists assume the role of ‘savers’ while the subjects -- those directly involved -- get bored to death doing ‘therapeutic’ tasks such as making pasta necklaces (!). I also noticed that more playful interactive workshops are mainly directed at younger audiences rather than the elderly; who tend to have a lot more free time, even though they’re often lonely.

So, my response was to give them an opportunity to express themselves freely. And what’s the best way of doing that? By forming an experimental punk band, of course! From an artistic point of view, my main objective was to demystify the preconceived ideas imposed by society around how elderly people should behave. This included overcoming a fear of technology. I wanted to invite them to interact with it in a more playful way, and give non-musicians the chance to make music and see what younger generations take for granted as everyday elements with new eyes.

But… plants??
My vision is that a group of frustrated pensionados would cathartically scream their thoughts into voice-distorting microphones and perform songs titled something like: Nephew, I'll never buy you PlayStation 5! using accessible interactive instruments -- maybe aubergines, pumpkins, mushrooms; or perhaps even their favourite flowers.

SHUT. THE. FRONT. DOOR! Someone’s actually letting you do this!? How did this all come about??
I first came up with the idea when I was in Buenos Aires for a few months and I proposed it to La Paternal Espacio Proyecto (LPEP) -- a cultural centre that offers several artist residencies each year and has an inclination toward technology and socially-engaged art. They offered me a studio to work on it and I developed some introductory workshops at a senior citizens’ activity centre two blocks away. This helped me test some initial ideas and shape the project.

But it wasn’t easy. The ‘convincing process’ meant I had to attend the senior citizens’ disco every Saturday night, in order to gain their trust. I danced with them and eventually introduced myself on the PA system. They stared at me as if I was some sort of blasphemous alien, or simply a liar.

On reflection, perhaps my opening gambit, stating I was a non-musician who wanted to work with them to play punk music on plants, was a step too far...

It worked! Who’ve you got working with you?
I had a great team of talented artists working with me who really dedicated their time and energy to the project: Lucia Ananda Fernandez documented the workshops, while Juan Rodriguez (who goes by the artist name, Sleepy Caju) and Barbara Salazar curated the musical aspects. Lucia and Barbara were friends of mine, but Sleepy Caju was a total stranger; someone I met him at a concert, who I told about my idea. He’s a young and talented musician, so he’s a great addition to the project; which is basically about generational exchanges.

Moving forward, the project will take shape in a couple of different ways. Firstly, in partnership with LPEP and the senior citizen’s center in Buenos Aires, and secondly, at another site in Cazon, a very small rural village about 200 km from the city. I’m taking up another artist-in-residence position there, Trans Acciones Utopica at the Centro Rural De Arte, during the first half of November and will head back to Buenos Aires after that.

How do you see the whole thing -- well, both mini-projects -- taking shape?
In Cazon, I'm planning to use plants as the village has a vast plant nursery and I imagine the inhabitants there have a strong connection with nature and the outdoors. In Buenos Aires, as I'll have much more time to get to know the participants, so I'd like the instruments to be related to each participant’s personal stories and dreams.

I won't impose any preconceived creative ideas on the senior citizens, so this will keep momentum free flowing, meaning the project might shift in new and unpredictable ways. I might also consider developing the same project in different countries in the future.

I’d like to see some crossover between the two projects, but I also want them to grow organically. Even if the main structure and objectives of each project stay the same, I’m keen for them to constantly take different directions. I also aim to collaborate with musicians and artists from a number of different disciplines.

Once a band’s formed I'd like ‘the grannies’ perform in different venues -- to create a real exchange with various generations and to give them an opportunity to express their thoughts to an actual audience.

What led you to Makey Makey? Did you investigate other technology too?
I first thought about using Ototo, created by Dentaku studio (Yuri Suzuki and Mark McKeague) but this isn’t in production anymore and is quite expensive. But I decided against it for this specific project mainly because it has a very limited variety of sounds. I also looked at the CocoMake7, created by the Hackteria collective, which I discovered while visiting a friend at the Solitude Schools residency in Stuttgart, Germany. We ended up playing a mushroom which I'd picked in the forest! However, it involves some basic building and programming.

I finally decided to opt for Makey Makey as I think it’s one of the most straightforward and accessible pieces of kit available; particularly for this project, given the participants’ unfamiliarity with technology. In fact, for an elderly person who’s had little or no interaction with technology, every extra step -- such turning on a computer or launching an application -- is a huge achievement. What's so great about Makey Makey is that you just have to plug it in and it just works. It’s extremely user-friendly.

I first bought one as a Christmas present for my brother a few years ago and soon realized that I’d bought it for myself really :). I used it during a two week residency workshop at Fondazione Spinola Banna in Italy, working with a chef who secretly wanted to be a drummer. We created a performance in the residency kitchen in which he played a bossa nova drum kit made of fruit, built with Makey Makey, and connected to a MAXMSP.

I see the punk grannies piece coming together in a similar way.

What do you think will be the most challenging part of the project?
The most challenging part will definitely be changing the routines of elderly people. I think will be worth insisting they keep at it, and I hope they’ll love the experience once they trust the project enough to try something new.

Thanks Virginia! We look forward to hearing more very soon :)

The Power of Making

The Power of Making

A Model for Intercultural Competence and Play

By Ariam Mogos, Founder of the Nairobi Play Project

In 2015, images of three year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, washed up on the beaches of Bodrum, Turkey stirred an international outcry and galvanized communities across the world to advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants. Only a year later, protests have been held in France, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy and other European countries by citizens draped in their national flags, to prevent their reception. Regardless of the countless tragedies covered by the media, there is a serious empathy deficit and disconnect between refugee and host communities. International organizations have agreed that this a critical time to ensure that refugees and migrants are able to rebuild their lives and successfully integrate into their countries of final destination. However, this requires an integration process which values the cultures and rights of refugees and migrants, rather than champion’s assimilation. Part of what’s contributing to this struggle is the lack of quality education initiatives which support intercultural dialogue and competence. There are few actors in the humanitarian aid space who are facilitating this dialogue between refugee and host communities in playful, productive and meaningful ways. The Nairobi Play Project attempts to address this issue through the art of making, and specifically making games. “Making” is a powerful process which not only gives youth agency to express themselves and solve problems, but build unlikely bridges between themselves and others.

I’m passionate about this model because I believe it has the power to transform and diversify the way practitioners in the humanitarian aid and global development fields build bridges between communities in conflict. “Making” is a strong foundation for creating community, and it’s the foundation of the Nairobi Play Project. So how does this model facilitate intercultural dialogue? Through a scaffolded process which touches on four different areas: 21st century skill development, design-based learning, computational thinking and social activism.

21st Century Skill development is critical to this model and a core focus. If our youth aren’t building skills around communication, collaboration and empathy, then we’re not preparing them for the complex and diverse environments we’re advocating for them to work, live and participate in. Moreover, to successfully develop intercultural competence, youth must be provided with opportunities to engage in constructive dialogue with individuals from other cultures. The Nairobi Play Project is built upon intercultural settings which support knowledge exchange, foster empathy and break down assumptions and barriers to developing relationships. Makey Makey and 21 Toys have been fantastic tools for designing hands-on and interactive experiences for these environments.

Within the framework of design-based learning, games-based learning is ideal because of how critical narrative is to games and to intercultural dialogue. To jumpstart the process, the Nairobi Play Project provides youth with challenges like remixing Mancala, an ancient East African game. When remixing Mancala, youth are guided through an iterative design process which helps them learn the value of brainstorming, creating, testing and changing a game. They apply this same process to the final collaborative games they create addressing issues in Kenya which have a great impact on their lives, such as gender equality, health, quality education, corruption and youth unemployment. Similar to sports, the game design process incorporates values such as teamwork and individual and collective responsibilities, which can help youth to develop the values and skills necessary to prevent and resolve conflict in their lives. What’s unique about the game design process to the Nairobi Play Project is that it’s not just a shared experience like a sports game, but it results in an artifact which young people create together, an artifact that communicates a narrative, which everyone contributes to through dialogue and debate. In the first iteration of the program, participants who were hesitant or even skeptical on day one, were empowered by the diversity in the room by day five.

To make their games, youth are engaged in a number of computational thinking concepts, practices and perspectives, which are also significant in strengthening their intercultural competence. While working with Scratch and Makey Makey, they practice experimenting and iterating, testing and debugging, reusing and remixing throughout the program. These are valuable practices than can be applied to a number of fields like architecture, interior design, teaching and engineering. Coding is only one expression of computational thinking and practice.

One youth produced game, “Journey to the Hospital”, challenges players to avoid contracting malaria from mosquitoes and to collect coins on the road to the hospital.

Most important to the Nairobi Play Project is the computational perspective of connecting: recognizing the power of creating with others and valuing them. Youth who participate in the program are not only proud of the games they make, but the relationships they develop throughout the process. Their gratitude, appreciation and respect for each other are the building blocks of a world which can truly represent and serve everyone.

This was a guest blog post written by Ariam Mogos, founder of the Nairobi Play Project
Ariam Mogos is a learning technologist, designer, educator and Eritrean. She currently leads digital learning programs for Global Kids in New York. She has also led the implementation of mobile and web based technologies for problem-based learning across Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa, the State Department’s TechGirls MENA program, and the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Science Literacy, Education and Technology. She is a 92Y Women inPower fellow and Coaching fellow. She received her M.A. from Columbia University in Human Rights and Global Development and her B.S. from Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations with a focus on International and Comparative Labor.

Make an ESC Key for Your New Macbook With a Potato

Since Apple announced today that their new Macbook Pro will come without an ESCAPE key, we thought we should show you that it's no big deal as long as you have a potato and a Makey Makey.

Step 1.


Get together
• Makey Makey GO (or Classic)
• Alligator Clip
• Potato
• Laptop

Step 2.


Go to and select your Makey Makey (GO or Classic).
Follow the steps on screen and map the ESC key to your Makey Makey.

Step 3.


Connect your potato to your Makey Makey.
With a GO, press set to calibrate to the potato.
With a Classic, you'll need to connect yourself to the EARTH clip.

Step 4.


Now you never have to worry about getting stuck in full screen again.