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Low Floor, High Ceiling Tools for Exploring Possibilities

Page history last edited by Josh Burker 6 years, 11 months ago




Explore the possibilities in this interactive workshop. Participants will create Makey Makey switches, tinker with marble walls, craft paper circuits, create spin art, play with wind tubes, and take apart items for re-invention.


Marble Machine



The Marble Machine is one of the best maker education projects you could hope to unleash upon a group of students or adults. It does not plug into the wall or need recharging, does not connect to wifi or the Internet, and can be used by young and old alike. It takes less than one minute of direct instruction on the nature of the challenge and a showcase of the parts. After that, a primal instinct takes over to get the marble to the bottom of the board, no matter the amount of frustration that ensues, and hard fun is had by all. 



  • Marble machine peg board
  • Wooden ramps made from cove moulding, cut to 12” lengths (about 5 per board)
  • Cardboard
  • Masking tape
  • Conductive copper tape
  • Scissors
  • Box cutters
  • Funnels (2 per board)
  • Marbles (4 per board)
  • Clothespins
  • 1/4” wood dowels cut to 5” lengths (about 20 per board)
  • Sponges (about 3 per board)






  1. Use a variety of materials to build a path for the marble.
  2. How long can you make the marble take to reach the bottom?



Take it Further


As you become more familiar with materials, add circuits, sounds, lights, LEGO, and more to create harder challenges!


Can you make the marble machine play a song as the marble travels through it?


Can you make motors turn on as the marble passes by a sensor?


Can you make the marble loop its way back to the top of the marble machine?


Switch construction: conductive copper tape on ramps

- Two parallel strips of conductive copper tape make an effective switch when the marble, wrapped in aluminum foil, bridges the two strips and completes the circuit.

- If the marble is rolling too fast, the Makey Makey might not have time to register the connection.



Switch use: rocker switches

- You can use a pre-existing switch with the Makey Makey. Experiment with which pins from the switch need to be connected via alligator clips with the Earth and key pads on the Makey Makey.

- This switch is good for higher speed contact with the marble.



Sensor Use: Program LEGO WeDo 2.0 to watch a Bluetooth-connected LEGO WeDo Distance Sensor.

- Connect the distance sensor to the LEGO WeDo 2.0 hub.

- Connect to the USB hub from the WeDo 2.0 app.

- Use the Wait Until: Distance Sensor block in WeDo 2.0:



- When a certain threshold of distance is reached, WeDo 2.0 can be triggered to play a sound, animate, and do something to help tell a story.



Wind Tube



Wind Tubes encourage you to craft using familiar materials and to test how your creation floats, flies, sinks, or launches in and from the wind tube!



  • Wind tubes constructed on floor fans

  • Thin (2mm) and thick (6mm) “foamies” sheets

  • Plastic containers

  • Feathers

  • Cardboard

  • Masking tape

  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

  • Glue sticks

  • Masking tape

  • Pipe cleaners




  1. What happens when you put a common object in the tube?
  2. Try adding other materials and see how that affects its flight.
  3. Does your object float, fly out the top, spin gently or fast?




Take it Further


As you become more familiar with the materials, try creating challenges that use the wind tube.


Longest time in the tube?


Travels the furthest distance out of the tube.


What is the heaviest object you can get aloft?


What is the lightest object you can keep in the wind tube?


Take Apart and Reinvent 



Instead of “making” something, in this workshop you are challenged to take something apart! Use the appropriate tools to disassemble common electronics.



  • Broken electronic equipment
  • Screwdrivers: phillips, flathead
  • Pliers
  • Crescent wrench




  1. There is a difference between disassembling and destroying.
  2. How many different parts make up the whole?
  3. Arrange and photograph the parts.




Take it Further


Using parts from different machines to create an entirely new (non-functioning) machine. Write a user manual for the device. 


Spin Art



A simple turntable built from LEGO WeDo 2.0 parts and controlled by the iPad forms the base for this Spin Art machine. Use crayons, pens, and markers to create masterpieces!



  • LEGO WeDo Kits
  • Laptops for WeDo kits
  • Cardboard
  • Felt-tip markers
  • Crayons
  • Scrap paper
  • Paper clips
  • Masking tape




  1. The secret to the spin is a LEGO turntable with a high gear ratio.
  2. Try combining mediums.
  3. Pressure affects how much ink or wax is spread on the paper. Likewise, watered down paint will flow outward more easily.




Taking it Further


Take photos of each piece produced by the spin art machine. Turn the photos into an animated gif.


Makey Makey Switches



Makey Makey is a magical digital duct tape that with a plug and play capability that make it the ultimate gateway for tinkering with physical computing. Invented by two MIT Media Lab students with a passion for hacking keyboards and playing musical fruit, it is often seen as the ultimate banana piano. In this workshop, you'll build and craft switches so you can go beyond the banana! 



  • Makey Makeys 
  • Computers and Scratch account
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Cardboard
  • Straws
  • Double Sided- Scotch Tape
  • Construction Paper
  • Sticky notes
  • 2-3 Makey Makey Inventor Booster Packs



  1. Create a conductive surface for your key press and a conductive surface for EARTH. 
  2. Find a insulating surface to put between the two surfaces (Air is an insulator!)
  3. Play with materials. Is there something from the take apart station that would make an intriguing Makey Makey switch?
  4. Go further with Scratch. Use Scratch to add timers, sound effects, or even a counter to create multiple effects. 




Taking it Further


Either tinker further with inventive switches to build interesting gadgets, or delve further into computational tinkering with Scratch to build complex digital games that rely on physical interaction with your Makey Makey switches. 


Paper Circuits







  1. Pick a template based on your comfort level. 
  2. Create a simple or parallel circuit.
  3. Tinker with removing tape traces and adding a copper flap (or aluminum foil, or some other conductor) to make your own DIY switch. 
  4. Craft your own circuit template. 




Taking it Further


Can you create a story that relies on light? Can you make poetry that lights up? Or hidden figures that only come on with the press of a finger? How can you combine Makey Makey switches with your Chibitronics stickers? Can you use Makey Makey to power LEDs on your the marble wall? How can you use your newfound knowledge to tinker further with LEDs and circuitry?



Participant Resources


A collection of PDFs for each activity is available for download.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


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