Phase 4.3 -Redesign a Traffic Light – Piper


Lesson Time:
45 to 60 minutes



In this lesson, students will use what they have learned about the design thinking cycle to redesign a stoplight for Mars. Throughout this lesson, students are encouraged to engage prior knowledge from previous lessons to help them design, prototype, test and present their solution.





Civil Engineer

Fashion Designer

Advertising Executive

Sound Engineer


The goal of this phase is to empower students to begin elaborating on their first stages of learning in engineering, computer literacy, design, coding, and programming. Students are challenged to design and create their own solution to a real-world challenge and explore making.





Explore then explain the role of empathy in user-centered engineering and game design



Describe a maker and/or growth mindset and how it is essential to DIY projects like a Piper kit.


Solve a real-world problem using Piper.



Understand and explore the engineering design cycle.



Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.




  • Suggested student to Kit ratio is 2:1 up to 3:1. Students form new teams or are in same teams as before.

  • Make sure Piper Computers are built, functioning, and Batteries are charged for the Raspberry Pi (and the speaker, in a Piper Computer Kit v1).

  • 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.

  • Plan how much time is left for students to work on their project.

  • Need help getting started facilitating open ended project based learning through making? Check out the resources through Maker: Ed or


Introduction (5 Minutes)


  • Slides 1 - 2 help set up the entire lesson.
  • We want students to think about their experience during this Stoplight phase. Present this Italian Job clip of changing stoplights during the car chase. (Only need to watch 1:10 to 1:50)
  • In this scene, one of the characters hacks the traffic system and changes the stoplight patterns.
  • Think about your experience with PiperCode Project: Stoplight during Phase 3.
  • What are some things to consider when working with stoplights?
  • How do you think he controlled the grid?
  • Why was it important that the character control the lights?
  • What trouble did he create?
Phase 4.3 -Redesign a Traffic Light

Stoplight Design Challenge (90% of class time)

In Lesson 3.2, students learned about how loops and sequences can be used to program one stoplight. In this challenge, students will be designing a plan for a four-way traffic stoplight.

Students should think back to their experience with the Stoplight Project. The Phase 4 Visual Organizer can help students track their work.

Slides 3-7 can help guide students.


Sharing Out Ideas (10 Minutes)

Before the learners dive into creating prototypes, have them pause and share out their initial designs to the whole group.

*Facilitating and guiding learners through documentation and reflection of these personal projects helps reinforce computer science learning around determining potential solutions to solve simple hardware and software problems using common troubleshooting strategies, as well as the practices of creating, testing, and refining computational artifacts, after developing and using abstractions (CA CS 3-5.CS.3 P6.2; P4 through 6)


Los Angeles Traffic Control Center (5 Minutes)

Students can learn more about the Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) System at Los Angeles’ Traffic Control Center. This video clip describes how Los Angeles Department of Transportation is trying to solve their traffic problem using ATSAC. (

Use slide 8 to show students a video describing the ATSAC.

Phase 4.3 -Redesign a Traffic Light

Reflection Activity (5% of Class Time)

Give students guiding questions on the topics of:

  1. Empathy (designing for a user)
  2. Improve prototypes through iteration & reflection
  3. Teamwork