Example “toy of yesterday” that will be used in the circuit bending activity.


August 12-15, 2013


Michael Smith-Welch


Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland


workshop, electronics, programming

Tomorrow's Toys

1-week workshop taught with FutureMakers on creative learning with electronics and programming.

During the workshop, we presented and used a range of electronic and non-electronic materials. The focus of the workshop was inventing and making the toys of the future. My collaborator, Michael Smith-Welch, and I chosen to focus on toys that allow people to be express themselves creatively and ultimately to affect the form as well as the function of their toys. We will introduce students to the Scratch programming environment. We will give each student a MaKey MaKey and show them how to use it in a variety of ways, including to interact with Scratch. We will demonstrate basic use of the MaKey MaKey and facilitate making activities using the platform. This will allow students to create switches that can communicate with a computer akin to a keyboard. For example, students can build a custom controller for a game that they build using Scratch.

Examples of “toys of yesterday” that were used in the circuit bending activity.

After students have some experience using the MaKey MaKey, we will explain to them them that it is based on the Arduino design and can be programmed as an Arduino. We will introduce the Arduino IDE as a way to program the MaKey MaKey board and demonstrate basic examples of interfacing with input and output components, namely switches, potentiometers, LEDs, and DC motors. We will also explain basic circuit-building concepts during these activities, such as conductivity, current, and using resistors in circuits. I helped Michael design the curriculum for this workshop and will help facilitate the workshop throughout the week.

Examples of a basic motor control circuit and the corresponding control code programmed into the MaKey MaKey. The motor speed can be adjusted using the potentiometer and by changing the duty cycle, set to 255 in the analogWrite() function above, to a value from 0 to 255.

During this workshop, I helped students with technical challenges and creative problem solving during making activities. I had experience using the MaKey MaKey and Arduino platforms as well as configuring the the MaKey MaKey for use as an Arduino. Because a significant component of this workshop is making, I played a significant part in facilitating the technical sessions of the workshop focused on using the MaKey MaKey as an Arduino. During this workshop, I drew upon my experience from previous workshops and facilitation in the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium, my experiences working with a wide range of materials over the summer, and my own programming experience.