Makey Makey Cardboard Guitars

I created this project a few months ago after being inspired by the amazing Colleen Graves. The work she does with a Makey Makey is incredible so definitely give her twitter a look and follow.

IMG_1161The idea behind it was simple. The children were tasked with replicating a musical instrument using some cardboard and a Makey Makey. The cardboard obsession continues. Instead of wood or brass for the body of the instrument the kids had their pick of the contents of my cardboard cupboard. Instead of strings or keys to play the sounds they used copper tape. To make the design complete the children had to lead the copper tape over the top of the guitar neck, and tuck away their wiring and circuitry behind the body.

IMG_1162The challenge for the kids was that the design brief is almost too simple. They needed to be creative and inventive with their guitars, whilst making sure the basic practicalities of the design still worked. The brief was to:

  • Create the body of an instrument using cardboard
  • It should include at least 6 playable notes
  • The ‘Earth’ wire should be hidden
  • The Makey board and wiring should be hidden as best as possible

What could possibly go wrong there!


For the making process I put the kids in pairs. After all, Teamwork makes the Dream work! Also, I only have enough Makey boards for one between two!! We actually got to spend a nice amount of time on them which meant they could really take their time and create a quality piece. Watching them work was really interesting. You could see that over the past few years of the British educational system marginalising the creative subjects, they were lacking in design techniques. We had a go with some pretty impressive cardboard scissors, craft knifes and crocodile clips. All of which needed a quick safety discussion!

IMG_1172The overwhelming result, the one that really stood out for me, was the sense of pride in the children. They really did take ownership of their creations, and were really invested in their outcome. From a technical viewpoint the kids did a really good job too. Most of the kids managed to create a really good product at the end of the sessions, and we had a bit of fun creating rock bands around the room.

This has been one of my favourite set of lessons I’ve taught in a while now. They kids and I both really really enjoyed it. Importantly, they learned loads from it too. They learned resilience and grit in getting their creations working. They learned the art of aesthetic in making their creations look great. They learned a hole raft of D&T skills they can take forward to new projects. Notice that I haven’t included coding in that. The coding came second, it wasn’t the driving and overriding theme of the project. Sometimes we need to remember that computing isn’t all about coding! you can have a look at one of the more amazing pieces of work in the tweet below. Enjoy!


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