Playing with your Food at the MSU Maker Faire

I am a student in the Master’s of Educational Technology program at Michigan State University we hosted our first Maker Faire at the MSU library today. My classmates and I provided four Maker activities for participates to experience. Guests used LED lights and circuits to create a map of the world and a decorative pin, played pinball using Scratch coding, became a human drum set, and constructed controllers for computer games out of food and kitchen utensils.  The Maker Movement encourages people to explore and tinker with technology and their resources to create something fun. All four groups from the MAET program provided the visitors with the experience of the Maker Movement.  Overall, there were many participants, and I can’t wait to see how the MSU community can expand on this Maker Movement!

My group and I decided to use the MaKey MaKey kit to connect food and kitchen utensils to a computer to play online computer games.  The purpose of this activity is to get visitors thinking of how to create a circuit using wires, food, and themselves as conductors for the electricity.  The activity gets people to think outside the box and learn from their mistakes while setting up the wires and choosing a conductive fruit or kitchen utensil.  Plus, it is fun to play Tetris with a spoon, a whisk, and a banana!

Materials:

  • MaKey MaKey kit (buy it here)
  • Various alligator clip wires (the MaKey MaKey kit includes 7, but buy more here)
  • Copper tape to create the “ground” wire (but some here)
  • Computer
  • Various conductive foods and kitchen utensils
  • Simple online computer games (We used Tetris, Arctic Blue, Temple Run, Cube Run, Spongebob Way)

When participants first arrived to our table, they saw two TVs that projected the online computer game, a poster to explain the different games available and the keys they would need to play the game, the MaKey MaKey kit connected to the computer and to the “ground,” and an assortment of foods and utensils. (The “ground” is a line of copper wire that all players will need to touch.)

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The MaKey MaKey kit acts as the controls of the computer when hooked up properly.  The up, down, left, right arrows, the space bar, and the left “click” of the computer can be controlled from the MaKey MaKey kit.  First, we connected the kit to the computer’s USB port.  Then, we connected one end of the alligator clip to the bottom of the MaKey MaKey kit and the other end  to the copper wire to create the “ground” (seen in the pictures on the red construction paper).  Depending on the keys needed to play the different games, the Faire participants hooked one end of the alligator wire to that hole in the MaKey MaKey kit and the other end to one of the conductive foods or utensils (which acts as the controller).  When the player puts a finger on the copper wire “ground” and touches the chosen “controller,” he/she completes the circuit to control those buttons on the computer to play the online video game.

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 To play the games, participants choose conductive foods or utensils to act as the controllers, connect the objects to a wire and the appropriate hole on the MaKey MaKey kit, hold the copper wire “ground,” and touch the objects to play the game! The above pictures were for the game Tetris, where the up, down, left, and right arrows are connected to the objects. There were many utensils that were available to use as controllers.  My group members and I purposely provided nonconductive objects as well to provide a challenge for learners. We also found that many foods are conductive (bananas, apples, cheese, chocolate chips) and could be used as controllers, but we used mostly utensils so we didn’t leave crumbs behind in the library! Maker Faire participants could choose to play a game alone and command all the controllers or with a partner or group so that each person is in charge of a different controller.  Depending on the game, both scenarios work well!

Suggestions:

  • Include more people by having each player control a different “button” or controller!  This is a great team building activity to promote communication!
  • A copper wire “ground” allows multiple people to play a game with limited wires.  The bottom of the MaKey MaKey kit allows for multiple wires to connect to the ground.  If you had enough alligator wires, you could connect the wires to the bottom of the kit and hold the other end to connect the circuit.
  • Have fun with it!  It might take some time to get used to, but it will be fun when you can finally play Cube Runner with an apple and a banana!

 Want more information? 

Please contact me if you have any questions! You can leave a comment here or tweet at me directly (@SrtaGlynn). Follow the hashtag #MAETEL1 to check out the other Maker Faire projects from my program!

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