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This project lends itself to experimentation: play with the Play-Doh, try different materials, try changing the program.

Musical Sculpting Machine

To play this musical instrument, you really need to play with it. To change the sounds, you push, pull, and squeeze the PlayDoh. - Margaret
stuff you need
  • Cricket
  • Numeric (hex) display
  • MIDI board with batteries
  • Wire. You'll need about 2 feet (61 cm) of solid (non-stranded) 22 gauge hook-up wire (e.g., Radio Shack 22-gauge hook-up wire )
  • Speakers (ones that plug into an outlet or that use batteries)
  • An audio cable to connect the MIDI board to the speakers.
  • Play-Doh (or homemade playdough with salt?)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Piece of cardboard (about 8.5"x11")
  • Electrical tape or heavy-duty masking tape
  • Wire cutter/stripper
Set up your speakers, Cricket, and MIDI board. (Your setup will look different.)
Make a sensor. To make the part that plugs into the Cricket's sensor port, cut two pieces of wire about 10 inches (25 cm) long. Use the wire strippers to strip the plastic coating off one end of each of the wires, exposing about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of wire.


Cut a small piece of cardboard to hold the wires that will plug into the sensor port. Make two marks on the cardboard that show you where the holes in the port are.
Attach the wires to the cardboard. Line up one end of each piece of wire with a mark on the cardboard, leaving about 1/2 inch of bare wire extending beyond the cardboard.
Wrap tape around the cardboard to hold the wires in place.
Next, strip the plastic coating off of the loose ends of each wire, exposing about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of wire.

Cut a piece of cardboard about 8 and 1/2 by 11 inches. Tape two pieces of foil to the cardboard, leaving a gap of about 2 inches (5 cm) between the two pieces of foil. Tape one wire to each piece of foil, pressing the tape down firmly to make sure the exposed wire makes a good contact with the foil.

Here's what your finished sensor will look like.

Make a circuit using: the aluminum-foil sensor and the Play-Doh.

Plop the playdoh down in the center of the cardboard touching both pieces of foil and plug your sensor into your Cricket to complete the circuit.

Here's a program to try with your music sculpting machine.

And here's a larger image of this program.

Squeeze, shape, and sculpt the Play-Doh. What kind of sounds can you make?
You may want to try making a sculpture to see what sound it makes.
What other materials could you experiment with?
What else
Here's another musical invention.
Learn to make musical Wandering Wands.
Read what Margaret wrote about her interactive storytelling idea.
Will food conduct electricity? Read about an activity that combines food and Crickets.

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