How to Make an Interactive Book Return with Makey Makey

South Fletcher’s branch always delights with its fun and creative book return designs. The most recent “Charlie Brown Christmas” theme, created by Veena (resident artist extraordinaire), seemed the perfect opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to try for a while: add sound effects to a book return with a Makey Makey. 


A Makey Makey is an invention tool that lets you interact with a computer with everyday objects. Using alligator clips connecting physical objects to the circuit board, the Makey Makey signals to the computer that the mouse has been clicked or a key pressed whenever those objects are touched (as long as those objects are made of a conductive material).  

I made a simple pressure switch using a piece of cardboard and some aluminum foil.  I connected one side to Space and the other to Earth. Since the alligator clip wires weren’t long enough to run through down through the book return to the computer set up in the back, I extended them with some stripped telephone wire.


To add the sound effects, I created a simple program in Scratch and imported sound bytes from the Charlie Brown Christmas movie I’d found online. After some trial and error,  I figured out how to program the three sound effects to play at random whenever the Space key was pressed.


I then affixed the switch inside the return slot with some heavy tape, so that when a book or DVD passed through, the weight would press the two foiled sides of the switch together, activating the Space key. Finally, I connected the Makey Makey to a Chromebook running my simple Scratch program and added some speakers.

And voilà….

It was fun tinkering with circuitry and coding using the Makey Makey to inspire even more smiles with our book return. In the future, I’d like to experiment more using a Makey Makey to control other outputs in an interactive display, such as lighting up LED lights or turning a motor on and off. 

What other interactive book return or display themes would you like to see at the library? Let us know in the comments below.



[This project was inspired by Makey Makey Book Drop]

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