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MaKey MaKey Makes Everyday Objects New Inventions

Kids, my daughter included, have been singing about the Bananaphone since Raffi released a song and album by the same name in 1994. Fast forward 20 years, and Raffi’s silly song doesn’t seem so silly. Eric Rosenbaum and Jay Silver, two very smart and creative guys with MIT degrees, have invented MaKey MaKey The Original Invention Kit For Everyone, which turns everyday objects into computer keyboards or touchpads. Move over Bananaphone, MaKey MaKey can turn bananas into a piano. And you thought engineers were boring.

MaKey MaKey, which comes from combining the words make and key, is a simple circuit board that connects your computer to any object using a USB cable and alligator clips. The object needs to conduct a little bit of energy, but according to their website that can be anything from ketchup to your grandmother. Once the connection is made to an object, say a banana or piece of play dough, the object can control computer commands on the keyboard as simple as the arrow keys or space bar. Or you can use MaKey MaKey’s board in Arduino mode in order to spin motors and turn on LED lights. I told you these guys were smart.

Each kit comes with the MaKey MaKey circuit board, a USB cable, 7 alligator clips, and 6 connector wires. It also includes a quick start guide and plenty of online documentation. It’s up to you to figure out what you want to create. MaKey MaKey works on both Windows and Mac OSX 10.5 and higher. And online games or software that can be controlled with a computer’s keyboard means your creation can be used to play your favorite downloadable games and programs. I will now be able to have my band by using MaKey MaKey to turn my family of five into a drum set.

Rosenbaum and Silver are believers in the Maker Movement, a DIY technology influenced group of artists, hobbyists, students and anyone who considers themselves makers. Because of their belief that everyone is creative and innovative, they have committed themselves to create invention kits that are easy to use. Before creating MaKey MaKey, they worked on the invention kits Scratch, Drawdio, and Singing Fingers.

MaKey MaKey gives kids and adults the ability to turn almost anything into an original invention limited only by imagination, and they have done it in a way that is simple and not necessary to understand. But the genius might be in the fact that the fun of inventing with their kits leads to wanting to understand how things work. They believe a “Maker’s Mindset” can change the world. And who am I to argue with MIT grads who turn bananas into pianos?

MaKey MaKey turns any object into a new invention and anybody into an inventor. It is a perfect purchase for home, school, and any community space invested in giving kids the tools to learn and create.