Author Topic: Grounding: Technically accurate but misleading and confusing  (Read 3135 times)


  • MaKey MaKer
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Grounding: Technically accurate but misleading and confusing
« on: February 25, 2015, 12:06:44 PM »
I have gotten a Makey-Makey, and have also started in Arduino, after not having had much to do with electronics for a few decades. It took me a bit to realize the issue with grounding, and, looking through the forum, I realize that there is confusion of what grounding is, and not a clear explanation. So, I'm going to try to bridge the gap, and suggest a change in the documentation.

To most people, grounding means attaching a device to the ground, to prevent static electric buildup. That is why most electrical appliances with moving parts use 3 pronged plugs; the third prong is the "ground" which allows any static electric charge to safely discharge without buildup.

In the Makey-Makey, the "ground" is actually completing the circuit. If you attach the Makey Makey to an object, the circuit is incomplete. If you touch the object, that (assuming you are not wearing insulating shoes) grounds the charge, but the circuit is still not complete; it doesn't go back to the Makey Makey. By holding a "ground wire" in one hand, it means that when you touch the object, the electricity flows from the Makey Makey, to the object, through your body, and back to the Makey Makey. When you stop touching either the ground wire or the connected object, the circuit is broken. The key (no pun intended) is that there is a continuity of contact between the output and the "ground" of the Makey Makey. This means that your body doesn't have to be a ground, as long as there is a continuous connection. It would be a bit clearer with pictures, but, when I did a search for "ground" on this forum, it occurred to me that every unanswered question was based on the confusion about the definition of "ground".



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  • MaKey MaKer
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Re: Grounding: Technically accurate but misleading and confusing
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2015, 11:14:30 AM »
Hey Bart,

Yeah that's a good point. 
The boards say "Earth" to avoid a little bit of the confusion, but it's true that the language used around the Makey Makey tends to get back to "Ground" very often.