It Takes a Village to Create A Giant Floor Piano

Our goal was to create a setting where our community could feel a sense of pride in building an object related to our summer reading theme, Read to the Rhythm. A floor piano, like in the movie Big, seemed like an obvious fit, and with the many instructional videos online, we felt this could be accomplished with what we had on hand, and common household supplies.


You may wonder what this has to do with marketing.  Karen McBride, our Public Information Manager, created this brilliant slogan: It Takes a Village to Create a Giant Floor Piano. These words demonstrate that we can’t possibly do the work ourselves.  Secondly, the program itself was a marketing piece for our exciting MakerLab kits, developed by Digital Services Manager Michael Campagna. At the Barrington Area Library, you can check out MakerLab kits for 2 hours.  In this program, we used the MakeyMakey and Raspberry Pi Kits.


With our giant floor piano program just two weeks away–tinfoil, MakeyMakey, Raspberry Pi, and wire strippers in hand—we were ready to add the finishing touches on a program that had been in development since March.  While we had researched a number of piano methods, we had to alter the designs we found to create something both safe for a public entrance (no trip hazards), and inviting.

We found a great tutorial here.  While the article is beautifully written and explains how the piano works, we really wanted to design our piano to look like a real piano.  Before the program, our Digital Services Manager Michael Campagna set up Scratch on our Raspberry Pi, we printed an image of a basic keyboard, and began mapping out what piano keys would be assigned to different keys on the MakeyMakey.


We used the Scratch program to accomplish this, making the last key a cat’s meow for good measure!


On the actual night of the event, we hooked up the Raspberry Pi, running the Stratch program, to a monitor to show how we assigned the musical notes to each key on the MakeyMakey. The Makey Makey was hooked up to 8 bananas so that each participant could see how the technology worked on a smaller scale before venturing out to build a life-size model.  We showed this video on YouTube, and explained that ours would look a little different (no tinfoil in sight).

Next, we divided into 2 groups based on interest:  Lizzy’s group was the wire-stripping group, and Gwyn’s group was the art group.  After each group was done, we came together to build the inner workings of the piano.

The wire is the kind used for networking computers.  We took off the blue plastic outside, to reveal 8 wires inside.  We needed 2 wires for each key (a wire to attach to the MakeyMakey ground, and a wire to attach to the Makey Makey key).  With 8 keys, that meant 16 wires total.

For each key, 1 wire was laid down, with tinfoil on top to increase conductivity, a layer of duct tape, and then the next wire.  Lastly, a layer of tinfoil covered the duct tape.  When someone steps on it, the two wires and  pieces of tinfoil are table to pass a charge through the duct tape layer, thus completing the circuit.  It’s a lot like turning on a light switch: once a kid steps on it (or flips the switch), the circuit is complete.  We put the white tarp over it to hide these layers.


At the end of the program, participants were invited to take a group picture, sign their name on the poster, and at last, play the piano. The last step was to remove the computer monitor and the mouse from the Raspberry Pi, so that the computer itself and the MakeyMakey could be on display without them in the way.


At this time, from the reference desk upstairs, we can hear the piano being played in our Atrium.

The sweet sound of success.


  • Tinfoil
  • Wire Strippers
  • Wire
  • 4 Foam Tiles
  • MakeyMakey
  • Raspberry PI
  • Duct Tape
  • White Tarp
  • Speaker

Lizzy Klinnert and Gwyneth Stupar are Adult Services Librarians at Barrington Area Library.



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