Last week, Professor Stephen Heppell held one of his development masterclasses at the Library at The Dock. Professor Heppel has internationally established himself as a recognised leader in the fields of learning, new media, and technology. So when I was asked to facilitate the Makey Makey class, it did not take long for me to answer. After all, Professor Heppel and the Kosher Tony Stark seemed to be a natural partnership.

Makey Makey is an inventors kit for everyone, and one of the standout funding successes from Kickstarter. This ready-made electronic board allows you to hook into a computer using a USB cable and trigger off events by turning everyday objects into touchpads. By using your body as the trigger, you can launch events on your computer, programs, and the internet.

 

Makey Makey kit and Snake, KTS's personal computer

Makey Makey kit and Snake, KTS’s personal computer

On the day I had the pleasure of working with twelve students, all who never had any experience with programming or the Makey Makey board. My first job was to explain what the interface does, and to do this, I quickly created a video game controller out of some aluminium foil, paper, and glue! Then the group took turns playing “Super Mario Brothers” with our futuristic and super-thin gamepad. I even saw some of the students smile as they jumped up grabbing coins, and started to see how versatile this piece of tech could be to them.

The rest of the day was spent creating murals that would work with the Makey Makey, to add a level of interactivity to their creations. As all the students did not have any programming background, I took the opportunity to introduce Scratch to them, the simple programming environment created my MIT for children to learn how to program.

In a short period of time, we created programs that would launch sounds when the touch-pads were activated, and then added some on-screen functionality, as Scratch the cat (MIT’s scratch mascot) would react to the touch-pads pressed up on screen. Everyone had a chance to share what they did, with great comments and smiles shared by everyone involved.

Group shot of us all with our interactive murals

Group shot of us all with our interactive murals

At the end of the day, we spent a few minutes going around and sharing what ideas they all had to take our Makey Makey’s home and develop further experience for people to interact with. Given the smiles and great feedback shared by my class, I am really keen to share this class with more students in the near future.

And the best part is…. everyone got to take their Makey Makey kits home! Now, how does the teacher get one?

 

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