Phase 2.2 - Basic Inputs and Outputs – Piper


Lesson Time:
45 to 60 minutes



Having learned the basics of circuits, breadboards and the different electrical properties of different materials, students will understand the difference between an output and input by comparing the LED behavior to button and switch behavior.

The StoryMode projects are arranged as planets in the user interface. The story for each planet will guide students through the fundamental concept of wiring a circuit and understanding how circuits on the breadboard work. As they complete one StoryMode project, the next one unlocks.






Hardware Engineer

Aerospace Engineer

Environmental Engineer


This lesson goes through the stories: Treasure Hunt and Chain Reaction.

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Students will:


Understand there are many different kinds of inputs and outputs.



Understand electricity can be controlled to behave like binary (most basic computer language) and either have a high or low voltage: high = 1 = ON, low = 0 = OFF


Understand that electric flow is sensed by the computer hardware and programmed to have an effect in software.



Understand that the computer is programmed to detect the flow of electricity going into the pin.



Understand that the computer is programmed to send a high voltage to the pin when light is desired.



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



Describe how computing devices connect to other components to form a system.



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 Treasure Hunt and Chain Reaction 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 Treasure Hunt
    and Chain Reaction. 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: 1 LED (red), 1 switch, and 4 wires (2 red, 2 blue).

Introduction (2-5 minutes)

  • Tell students they will be working through 2 more levels of the game today, which will introduce using LED lights and switches.
  • Review the key concepts they learned in the last lesson (buttons & breadboards) and ask them informally to define new concepts (inputs and outputs). Have them quickly brainstorm other examples of inputs and outputs from everyday life or other more complex computer systems.

Main Activity (30-40 minutes)

Encourage students to complete the Treasure Hunt and Chain Reaction world challenge.

Review Piper Quick Guides for Treasure Hunt and Chain Reaction  


Total 50% of Class Time

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

  • What happens when you press the button in the electrical and software worlds? What happens when the LED is lighting up? Example Answer: In the electrical world, you are completing the circuit so that there is a full conducting loop. In the software world, the computer gets the signal that you have completed the circuit and therefore triggers current to run through the wires to the LED. When the LED is lighting up, current is traveling through the wires to the LED. The LED turns the electrical energy into light energy.
  • Why do we need two wires per component? Example Answer: Two wires allow you to create a full conducting loop between the Raspberry Pi and the component (input/output) in the breadboard.
  • What is the difference between a switch and a button? Example Answer: A button has a momentary "on" position, reverting to an "off" position. A switch has a permanent “on" or “off” position you set.

*These checks for understanding help reinforce the science skills of generating and comparing multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information (NGSS (4-PS4-3))

Note: Students may have trouble getting the buttons to work. Remember that good contact is the key to good electric flow. Buttons and wires need to be properly aligned and seated. Students may need assistance getting the wiring just right.

Review vocabulary words and definitions that were encountered during the lesson

Closing Activity (10-15 minutes)

  • 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: 2.2 SLIDES - Basic GPIO (LEDs, buttons and switches)

  • Use these slides as background knowledge to help unpack and discuss circuits with LEDs, buttons and switches. (Some slides refer to Python code which is not what students are using).
  • With switches, electricity can be controlled to behave like binary numbers and either have a high or low voltage: high = 1 when ON, low = 0 when OFF

Combine a few teams together in small groups of 4 to 6. Have individuals contribute questions/answers on the topic of LEDs, buttons, and switches, 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?

Teacher Led Discussion (5% of class time)

  • Review Peer led discussions. The success criteria for assessment of each group is responsive listening, thoughtful contributions, reflective thinking, and application of concepts learned.
  • 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 Exit survey assessment questions (or gamify) to evaluate learning objectives.