Phase 4.4 -Engineering Design – Piper


Lesson Time:
45 to 60 minutes



The goal of this lesson 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.





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.



Use Creative Mode to design and test games and controllers.


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



Generate and compare mSolve 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.


Build games and controllers in PiperCode to (a) create games and other physical computing projects, and (b) practice computational and design thinking.


Bring awareness of coding in other languages (Python).




  • Suggested student to Piper Computer 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 speaker, for Piper Computer Kit v1).

  • Retrieve student team storage boxes with Piper build components.


Teacher Led Discussion (5 Minutes)

  1. What does it take to be an engineer? Engineers are problem solvers. Are you a problem solver? How do you know?
  2. Have you heard of the Maker movement? What do you know about it? Did you know that a lot of Makers use a Raspberry Pi to control what they make? What do we have in our Piper Computers? (a Raspberry Pi Model 3 B v1.2).
  3. We have built a Piper Computer and we know how to create Blockly code and how to create a circuits with buttons, sounds, and lights. Could we use this knowledge to solve a real problem? What kinds of problems could we solve? Write suggestions on the board. Students can record their responses on the Phase 4 Visual Organizer.



  • Solve a problem in the classroom
  • Solve a problem for the school or another class
  • Solve a problem for an elderly person
  • Solve a problem for a disabled person
  • (Optional) Have the students re-write the Maker Movement Manifesto (Mark Hatch) in their own words and post on the wall.

Activity (90% of class time)

This activity is student led project based learning!

  1. Need help setting up your learners to go deeper with facilitating open ended project based learning through design thinking and challenge based learning? Check out the resources through Digital Promise’s Maker Promise Leadership initiative:
  2. Split students into teams based on student interest or form teams with one who is good at coding, one who is good at electronics, and one who is good at art and design.
  3. Go through the engineering design process. Students can record the process in the Phase 4 Visual Organizer.
  4. Use 4.4 SLIDES to guide students.
  5. Have students create a new project portfolio, or maker journal to document their progress through the engineering design process.
  6. Describe the brainstorming process. (Post-it notes are a good tool to use for brainstorming.) Guide students to brainstorm a project to create where the parts in the Piper Computer Kit can be used to solve a real-world problem.
  7. Remind the learners of the best practices of an engineer, especially around being safe, creative, persistent, etc.
  8. Emphasize constraints of time and materials and have students create a plan which demonstrates they understand these. Each day they need to review the constraints and explain where they are in the completion of their project.

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)


Creating a Professional Portfolio (10 Minutes)

  • Have the students create a new project portfolio or provide a maker journal project template to track progress of their project. Use a grading rubric to evaluate the projects.
  • [Optional] Bring in a panel of 3 to 5 people to evaluate and provide feedback on the projects.

Reflection (5 Minutes)

Learners can visit the Piper Projects website and review examples of project-based learning experiences they can explore in the above lesson. This may be a useful resources if students need help brainstorming what else can be done with their Piper. The projects listed are more advanced projects which use Python Code instead of Blockly. Students should be encouraged to go back to previous simple PiperCode projects to compare Python and Blockly. Also note that some of the projects in the website require purchasing arts & crafts or other Raspberry Pi additions or other digital fabrication tools.

Our Favorite Example:

  • Students can build a theremin. Requirements: wifi access, comfort level using the terminal interface on a Raspberry Pi, and purchase an additional HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Sensor.