How to #Maker a Simon Game

Memorized by the Maker Movement? Interested in learning by making? Easily addicted to memory games? You’ve come to the right place. After hosting our Maker Faire in East Lansing this summer, my #RepeatTheBeat team set out to teach others how to make-it-yourself.

Chelsea helping Maker Faire attendees play the game
Chelsea helping Maker Faire attendees play the game

Why?

The purpose for our faire was to ignite imagination and foster curiosity with a Makey Makey project that was appropriate for all ages. The concept was simple, the science was circuits, and the materials were easy to gather.

The #RepeatTheBeat group consisted of myself, Becky and Rosie. Using the Makey Makey kit, PlayDoh, and Scratch, we created a maker-friendly version of the Simon game. Truthfully, when my teammates first talked about this concept, I thought they were suggesting we play “Simon Says” with maker-goers.

After we got onto the same page, and Becky showed me the Simon game, our game design began to flourish. We decided that PlayDoh, matching the colors in our game, would be crucial. We also found that propping up the game on a shoe box would hide the wires and create a more user-friendly environment. Finally, after our prototyping and testing with special guests, we found that incorporating both hand and foot options was key to making this project a success.

For those of you who are still questioning, “what is the Simon game?” this should help clear up confusion (at least it did in my case).

Jon, the winner of the Simon competition, posing with the game, photo courtesy of Becky Whitaker
Jon, the winner of the Simon competition, posing with the game, photo courtesy of Becky Whitaker
  1. On the computer screen, as seen in the picture to the right, there is a circular game design with four different colors. You must press start (on the PlayDoh start button) or hit the space bar to begin.
  2. Immediately, a color will light up, and a sound will play. Your goal is to match that light/sound by pressing the similar color PlayDoh.
  3. Each round will add an additional color, and you must utilize the color and sound combinations to help you remember the entire sequence.

The goal: Continue to up your score by remembering longer patterns. While this may seem easy, a PhD student in Cognitive Psychology told us that keeping track of the pattern was much harder than he expected. Ultimately, Jon, pictured on the right, won by remembering a pattern of 25 different colors/sounds. Jon said that the more he played, the better he got at recognizing different chunks of the pattern by their given sounds.

Scorekeeper App
Scorekeeper App

Because we wanted to encourage people to play more than once, we incorporated a leaderboard into our Maker space. We used an iPad with the app, Scorekeeper (on the left), to achieve this goal, and periodically updated the whiteboard outside of our room.

The competition heated up when the #MAETEL2 crew came to the library to play. Jon and Sam posted the high scores of the day at 25 and 20 respectively.

To put this in perspective, Becky, Rosie and I couldn’t even make it to 15 patterns, and we created this activity.

What?

Before you can begin creating, you’ll need to go to the Makey Makey site, and purchase a kit. The kit we used was basic, it included a USB cable, the Makey “circuitboard,” and several alligator clips. In addition to the kit, to replicate our project, you’ll need the following items:

Our Makey Makey Maker Faire Game, Photo Credit Rebecca Whitaker
Our Makey Makey Maker Faire Game, Photo Credit Rebecca Whitaker
  • Computer
  • Simon Scratch Website
  • PlayDoh (a set with four different colors, ideally those that match the Simon game colors: red, green, blue and yellow)
  • Headphones (anything from around the house)
  • Tinfoil (from your local grocery store)
  • Glue Stick (from your local craft store)
  • Conductive Wire (purchase online from Amazon, Etsy, JoAnns, etc.)
  • Shoe Box Top (anything from around the house)
  • Construction Paper (from your local craft store)
  • Tape (we used packing tape, can get it at local craft store)

How?

  1. Open up the Makey Makey kit, and plug in the USB cable to your computer. Then connect the other end to the Makey Makey circuit board. Notice that there are alligator clips, and places on the Makey Makey board to hook up those clips.
  2. Connect the alligator clips to the Makey Makey board. (ProTip: as we learned, it is easiest to match the colors of the clips to the colors of the game so that the PlayDoh colors will match the game exactly.) You should connect four clips to the four different arrow keys, and a fifth clip to the space bar key, if you want to also include a start button in PlayDoh.

    Underneath the shoebox
    Underneath the shoebox
  3. Connect a sixth alligator clip to the silver colored area of the board labeled “Earth” (ProTip: rather than putting it through the holes, like you did with the other clips, it is better to clip it to the side).
  4. On your computer, bring up the Scratch Simon website. This website will bring up the Simon Game that utilizes the keys available on the Makey Makey. The start button is controlled by the space bar, and the colors are controlled by the arrow keys. The up arrow is blue, the down arrow is green, the left arrow is red and the right arrow is yellow.  To start, press the space bar.
  5. Take a shoe box lid and cut a hole in the back so that they Makey Makey kit can be placed underneath, and the wires can come out of the back. Additionally, cover the shoe box with a blank sheet of paper. If you wish to add a start button, label “START” separate from the four chunks of PlayDoh representing the game.
  6. Using scissors, punch holes into the box that look like the four corners of a square, then punch a fifth hole on the side for the start button.

    Our Makey Makey Maker Faire Game, Photo Credit Rebecca Whitaker
    Our Makey Makey Maker Faire Game, Photo Credit Rebecca Whitaker
  7. Create buttons using PlayDoh. I recommend making them into circles or ovals, and replicating what you see on the computer screen as closely as possible. Then place each chunk of PlayDoh on top of the respective holes in the shoe box.
  8. Punch each of the free ends of the alligator clips up and into the holes, so that they are secure. Make sure that they match the PlayDoh above. If everything is in agreement, your board will match the game on the screen exactly. (ProTip: Cover the tops of the clips in tinfoil, if you do this, the PlayDoh won’t get into the clips and ruin them).
  9. Take the sixth alligator clip (the one connected to the “Earth” spot on the board), and wrap conductive thread around the metal part of the end that is free. Then wrap that same piece of thread around a large glue stick, and tape it so that the thread can’t slip off of the stick. Finally, cover the glue stick in tinfoil (ProTip: Don’t cut the thread until you mess around with everything and see how much you will need, depending on what hand someone will want to use and what the space will be like).

    Playing around!
    Playing around!
  10. To allow people to choose between hand and foot, you’ll also want to tie an additional piece of conductive thread to that first piece, connected to the glue, and tape it to tinfoil that you’ll place on the ground. The idea is that the alligator clip connected to “Earth” needs to be grounded, so a foot or hand must actually touch one of these two items in order to complete the circuit.
  11. Now all that’s left is to play the game! You’ll have to grab the glue stick or stand on the foil (ProTip: this will work with a sock on too), press start, and try to repeat the beat! Fair warning: this game is tough. You will need to focus, focus, focus, and although you might not think headphones are necessary, remember our top scorer said they were a key to his success!

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