Makey Makey Switch Challenge: Frankenstein Lever

Project Inspiration

In the classic story Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein pulls a switch, similar to the one below, bringing his gruesome creation (Frankenstein’s Monster) to life.  Although it is not entirely clear what exact model switch/lever he used, it probably looked something like this:

switch styled like one in frankensteins monster

The design concept of the lever is pretty simple: there is a central handle on a hinge that can complete one of two different circuits. Not only is this project great for learning how basic switches work, but it can also help visualize various narrative aspects like mood and setting by bringing objects of the fictional world into real life.  

The Prompt

Using  Makey Makey, create a lever that connects two circuits in a way similar to the Frankenstein switch.

Try the prompt out in your space! Tweet us with photos at #DHFMakes.

Project Walkthrough

My switch was made from a combination of chipboard and tin foil, and a paperclip. This writeup contains the steps for the final, low-tech solution. Before starting, I evaluated and gathered my materials. I decided to make my prototype as simple as possible, and so I used consistent materials throughout the project.

cardboard makey makey switch final version

Supplies Needed

Project Steps

This is an outline of the steps I took creating my solution to the prompt. This is a guide that you can follow if you want to recreate my switch. However, I’d encourage you to create your own solution and share it with us!

laying out the chipboard scissors and marker

Cutting the Chipboard

I first started with chipboard, a marker, and scissors. The first part of the project is to cut out the pieces needed to make a lever.

half-circle drawn on chipboard with marker

Outlining the Base

The first pieces I cut were two half-circles. These two half-circles are the base of the hinge. The image illustrates how the half-circles were made.

chipboard with half-circles cut out

Cutting the Circles

Cut out both of the half-circles.

marking half-circle cardboard with a dot to mark where the screw will go

Marking the Center

Mark the center of each half-circle with a dot. This is where the screw will be inserted. Make sure to mark the same place on each circle!

attaching both half-circles with a screw

Testing the Screw

Once the centers are marked, insert the screw into the mark and puncture the center to create a hole. Repeat this for each half-circle.

hot gluing the connected half-circles to the chipboard

Check Your Progress

Place the screw within the center of each half-circle.

checking to make sure that the screw goes through both half-circles

Mounting on the Base

Once inserting the screw through both of the half-circles, place them on a piece of chipboard. This acts as the base for the entire switch.

glueing the half-circles to the chipboard base

Hot Glue the Base

I then hot glued the two circles in place, leaving the screw in as a method of holding them together. Once the hot glue dried, remove the screw.

dried half-circles glued to chipboard base after removing the screw

Check Your Progress

Once the glue dries and the half-circles are firmly attached to the base, remove the screw. After this step, it’s time to make the lever handle.

marker outline of lever shaft drawn on chipboard

Mark the Shaft

The lever handle requires two components: a long shaft and a handle. The shaft is first. To make the shaft, draw a long, thin, rectangular shape that can fit between the two half-circles. One end should be rounded to allow for rotation.

chipboard lever shaft cut out

Cutting the Shaft

Once I marked the shaft, I cut it out. At this point I realized that I needed to make the shaft thicker. I traced the shape and cut out five identical pieces.

five chipboard lever shaft pieces cut out next to each other

Check Your Progress

At this point there should be five identical shaft pieces. Make sure that they’re as similar as possible or else it may be difficult to stack them.

hot glueing all the lever shaft pieces

Combine the Shaft Pieces

Glue all the pieces together so that they form a stack. This made the shaft thicker while maintaining the general shape outline.

combining pieces into a shaft and marking hole with a dot

Marking the Center

Once the shafts are stacked and glued, mark the center of the rounded edge with a dot. This is where the next hole will be made.

pushing the screw through the hole in the lever shaft

Insert the Screw

Using the same screw as earlier, push it through the dot on the chipboard. Twist the screw all the way through the stack of chipboard. Since this is the same screw, the hole should be the same size as the hole in the half-circle base.

chipboard cutouts for a lever handle

Check Your Progress

The screw should be firmly inserted through the center of the rounded edge of the shaft. The next step is to add the handle!

hot glueing the handle pieces to the shaft

Attaching the Handle

I made the handle to add to the non-rounded end of the shaft. I cut out some small, rectangular pieces of chipboard. Mine ended up being roughly the same length as the shaft, but you should experiment. Arrange the handle so that it’s perpendicular with the shaft. This is the part of the handle that you’ll grip with your hand, so I recommend making it comfortable to grip.

finished chipboard lever with attached handle

Check Your Progress

At this point you should, the handle should be attached to the non-rounded edge of the shaft. Make sure that this is comfortable for you! With the handle attached, the moving part of the lever is complete.

handle and base side by side with paperclip

Attaching the Shaft to the Base

Once you’ve assembled the shaft, check to make sure that the shaft can be inserted between the two half-circles in the base. Go ahead and test this out and make any necessary tweaks before moving forward.

poking paperclip through the base and handle

Inserting the Paperclip

Once you’ve tested that the shaft sits in the base, connect them together with the paperclip. Straighten a paperclip and insert it all the way through the holes of the base and the shaft.

paperclip trimmed bent back and folded to fit onto the base

Bending the Paperclip

Once the paperclip is inserted through the base and shaft, bend and trim it so that it is snuggly held in place. Make sure to get a secure, tight fit and fold back the paperclip enough so that it doesn’t touch the chipboard square.

laying out aluminum foil to prepare to cover the handle

Preparing the Foil

Next, I needed to make the lever conductive. The entire handle is covered in aluminum foil. Cut enough foil so that it’ll be able to wrap the handle.

lever handle covered in foil and attached to base

Covering the Handle

Next, cover the whole handle in aluminum foil. Make sure that the foil covers the sides of the handle as well as the top and front.

foil pads added in preparation for makey makey wiring

Creating Conductive Pads

After covering the handle in foil, you need to create conductive pads for the handle to touch. These pads are placed on the larger chipboard base. Touching the handle to each of these pads completes the circuit and triggers the Makey Makey.

cardboard makey makey switch final version

Wiring the Handle

The last two steps are to connect the Makey Makey! The user will be interacting with the foil handle to move it, so the handle is connected to Earth on the Makey Makey. This limits the mobility when I went directly to Earth. Instead, I suggest connecting the paperclip to Earth with one alligator clip, and then using a second alligator clip to connect the paperclip to the handle. Each pad connects to the left or right arrow.

switch fully connected to the makey makey

Wiring the Pads

The last step is to wire each of the pads. Connect one pad to the left arrow and the other to the right arrow of the Makey Makey. By wiring it this way, touching the handle to the pads is the equivalent of touching the left and right arrow keys on the computer.

Conclusions

This is my solution to the challenge prompt. You can use this as a guide and follow along to recreate my switch, or you can use this as a launching point to create your own solution. The Makey Makey is a great tool for building creative confidence through problem solving, and we love seeing other solutions to these prompts!

Remember, my switch utilized the left and right arrow keys of the Makey Makey. You can alter this to meet the needs of your project. For example, you can connect the Makey Makey to a Scratch project and customize the pad wiring to fit the game.

Try this project at your learning space and let us know what you come up with! Use the hashtag #DHFMakes to show us your projects!


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