Phase 2.3 -Polarity and Audio Output – Piper


Lesson Time:
45 to 75 minutes



In Phase 2, students play Piper's custom-created Raspberry Pi Edition of Minecraft. Students learn the basics of circuitry with hands-on circuit building using electrical components like breadboards, jumper wires, buttons, LEDs and more.

In each level of the game, students will follow an engaging storyline to solve electronics challenges that allow them to complete each level. In the process, they will learn about the concepts of electrical current, power, types of circuits and how components function in a circuit.

In this lesson, students will apply their understanding of basic circuits to utilizing buzzers with switches. They will also focus on the concept of polarity for diodes like LEDs and the buzzer in their kit.






Hardware Engineer

Aerospace Engineer

Environmental Engineer



Having understood the difference between an output and input, students will review using buttons and switches and learn the new concept of polarity.

The stories are arranged as planets. The story for each planet will guide students through the fundamental concept of wiring a circuit and understanding how switches and buttons on the breadboard work. As learners complete one story, the next one unlocks.

This lesson goes through the stories: Power Plant and Rainbow Bridge.





Understand buttons and switches are used in most complex electric and electronic devices, no matter the size.



Understand that switches are different than buttons in that switches allow current to continually run through a circuit. Buttons only allow this for one moment.


Understand components with polarity have to be placed a certain way in the circuit.


Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.


Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by electric currents.



Decompose problems into smaller, manageable tasks which may themselves be decomposed.



Perform different roles when collaborating with peers.



Generate and compare multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information.



Determine potential solutions to solve simple hardware and software problems using common troubleshooting strategies.



  • Review background materials and hints on Minecraft in Minecraft Reference.
  • Go through the Power Plant and Rainbow Bridge stories yourself, follow the directions on the screen and build the circuits (don’t forget to turn on the speakers so you can hear the directions). Review Piper Quick Guides for Power Plant and Rainbow Bridge. If you don’t want all students to play the videos, there are links at the end of the quick reference and you can project them for the whole class to view.

  • Review your favorite teacher science materials for Electronics and Circuits background.

  • Students in the same teams as before, or make adjustments as necessary.

  • Make sure Piper kits are built, connected, functioning, and batteries are charged for the Raspberry Pi and the speaker.

  • Retrieve student team storage boxes with Piper build components.

  • Provide storage devices to teams to hold electronics - such as paper plate or paper cup or plastic box.

  • Materials needed for electronic builds: 2 switches, 1 buzzer, and 6 wires (3 red, 3 blue)


Introduction (5 minutes)


  1. Tell students they will be playing through 2 more levels of the game today, exploring the many ways to use buttons and switches in Piper, and learning about polarity.

  2. Activate prior knowledge: Ask “What do you know about polarity? When have you used that concept before?” Pause and wait 5 seconds for responses. Then “How about with magnets or with a battery?”

  3. If you can project from a Piper onto a larger screen or projector, have a learner who might have surged ahead demo the first steps of Power Plant. Ask questions and engage students in a discussion about how the polarity plays out in this simulated circuit.


PiperCode Project Frog Frenzy (30-40 Minutes)


  1. Encourage students to go through the Power Plant and Rainbow Bridge worlds.

    1. Refer to Quick Guide - Power Plant & Quick Guide - Rainbow Bridge

  2. During this time, roam around the room, asking the essential questions* of this lesson:

    1. In Power Plant: Where have you seen buttons and switches used before?

    2. In Rainbow Bridge: Look closely at the buzzer, what special markers are used on it to indicate polarity? What happens if you put in an LED instead of the buzzer?


*These checks for understanding help reinforce the learning of the science skill of applying scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another: (NGSS (4-PS3-4) A)


Debrief Activity (50% of Class Time)


  1. Review vocabulary words and definitions that were encountered during the lesson.

  2. With grade 6-8 students, discuss how the kinetic energy from the falling water is converted to electrical energy and stored in the battery.


Group Discussion:

  • Students take a picture of their control panel and circuits. After completing the stories, students take apart any circuits on separate breadboards and return parts to their proper bag in the storage bin.

  • Students put kit away to avoid distractions during teacher led discussion. Remind students to use the proper shutdown sequence.

  • Teacher led discussion:2.3 SLIDES - More Buttons, Switches & Polarity, Audio

    Use these slides to unpack and discuss uses of buttons and switches in the outside world and also concepts of polarity and audio output.
  • Group discussion/reflection: Combine a few teams together in small groups of 4 to 6. Have individuals contribute questions/answers on the topic of Buttons, Switches, and Polarity, giving references to the two Piper worlds they just finished that explored this new concept. Assign peer leaders to either document or summarize their group’s ideas. Provide prompts to help them get started:


  1. What do we know about it?

  2. How do we know that we know it? How did we demonstrate knowledge?

  3. What got in the way of learning it?

  4. What helped with learning it?

  5. How can this knowledge be applied to a real-world engineering problem?


Closing Discussion (5% of Class Time)

  • Group discussion: Have one group volunteer to share their work with the class. Visibility for whole class will be key.

    • Address misconceptions as students share.

    • Ask open-ended questions such as: Why do you think..? What evidence do you have? What do you know about the problem? How would you find the answer to the question?

  • Have students complete Assessment Questions as an Exit survey (or gamify) to evaluate learning objectives.  

  • [Optional] Have students draw a circuit with a battery, switch, and a polarized component like a buzzer.