How to make a video game controller with a sweet potato and a Makey Makey electronic board




Hello there,


Welcome back for a new Tech STEM tutorial specially made for your kids.

I think that if you are on this blog it's because you or your kids like to tinker, make things, learn how to code, learn how to make video game, like electronics and the list is still going on.


If that's the case, I think you'll be happy just by reading these few lines I'm typing right now.




Let's talk electronics


When we say electronics, that sounds so vague that sometimes we forget to decompose things in simple pieces. yes I know, even electronics can be understood. Lol


Electronics to work usually need a battery. It's everywhere in your product, from toys to your smartphones or tablets. It allows to have energy to the main active components you are trying to turn on. But let's talk about it in a couple of lines.


You also have a main other component called a switch. You usually use them to turn on or off the device you are using. Let's take a simple example such as a light bulb. Click Click, it's on or off. that's it.



LED

Courtesy: Aliexpress.com



And to finish this part, you may also need an active part, that may be a buzzer to make sounds, a diode to make light, a motor to move things or an electronic chip that does special things depending of it's manufacturer.


DC motor

Courtesy : Ebay




Electricity and conductivity


All the components we saw before needs to be connected together to work. This is what we call a schematic. It starts from the battery to bring the energy to our led or motor. To connect them together, you may need cables like the following schematic.


Cables have a good conductivity depending of their materiel. But what you need to remember is conductivity. Even you, you are conductive because you are made of 70% of water. Meaning the electricity can cross your body. that's why your family ask you since a young age to not touch electric devices, switches when your hands are wet.





Video game


Talking video games, these are popular since the 70's on the small screen. It usually started with a character that you control. This character may be a man, a car or a cat like the game we play in Scratch. Let's say the famous Pacman that patrol in a maze to it them all.



Courtesy: Pacman.cc



What you usually do in that type of game, is jumping, moving the main character around to avoid the bad guys, his environment . All that controlled by a keyboard if you are on a computer or a video game controller if you are playing on a console like a Nintendo Wii, a PlayStation, a Xbox or another one.




Video game controller


A controller is usually made to interact with the character in the screen. When you press a button, it reacts for what purpose it has been code. When you push a button or switch, you close a circuit that let the electricity goes through to activate a chip ( That will do what it was programmed for). It come with a joypad with four different arrows to go Up, Down, Left and Right.



Courtesy: Microsoft.com





Let's make a video game


Let's code a little with Scratch MIT


This is a quick note about how to open scratch and what are the main parts in the interface.

To start coding with Scratch, you first need:

  • A computer

  • A web browser installed on it ( Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera or something else depending of your preferences)

  • An internet connection


From there, you open your browser, then type ''google.com''. In google, you type '' Scratch'' or ''Scratch MIT''. You select the first link. The one with the link






Click on it and you should arrived on that window. Click on “start creating”





Close the pop-up window.





Let’s get it started now. ;-)







We will with the following code move our character Up, Down, Left and Right. You can find the block "when Space key pressed" in the "events" tab.


And the "move 10 steps" block in the "motion" tab.






Make a video game controller with a sweet potato and a Makey Makey electronics board



We saw how to make a video game and control a character with our keypad. Hope your children like this STEM coding example. But to push that further, let create our own video game controller.


For this, you need:

  • A sweet potato

  • A Makey Makey. You can find it on Amazon with the following link : Buy a Makey Makey




The board look like a game controller. We will use the arrows formed by the Joypad. This board transform the command like a keyboard and transmit it to our game (e.g: click, space, up, down, etc).


To make it work, the board needs to be connected to the computer with the USB.





Then connect a cable to the up arrow on the keyboard and the other side of this cable to the sweet potato.






Now take another cable and connect it to the ground and hold the other side of the tip to your hand.


When you tap on the the potato, you will notice that the cat move toward the top of the interface.





And you can do the same for the other arrows ( Left, Right and Down). Each of them need to be connected a sweet potato as well to control the other motion for the cat.



You can now control the act and move him around with the sweet potato slices. How fun is that. ;-)



What else can be done


It is a good way for your children to learn how to code and learn STEM. Here, we have seen how to control a video game with a sweet potato. What about:

  • How to create a musical instrument with a Makey Makey and apples

  • Create a remote with slime. Pretty simple and funny to do

  • Create an alarm or trap. When someone touch your object it makes a sounds in the computer

  • The ideas are limitless, you are the limit. ;-)


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Talk to you soon,







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