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Program Overview

The program overview speaks to the students about what has happened in the T3 Alliance in the past, and what they can expect to learn as part of the T3 Alliance program. There are examples of what other programs have done, and there is information about how a student can expect to be supported in their class and if they are to get into the T3 Alliance forums. It’s here where we introduce brain books as a part of the habit that will help them develop as writers.


  1. Understand the history and context of T3 Alliance
  2. Describe the core principles of the program
  3. Describe the technologies and some examples of how it has been used.

30 – 45 minutes

Growth Mindset / Brush Bots

Growth and Fixed mindsets are states of mind that relate to a learner’s perception of how abilities and skillsets are acquired. An individual with a growth mindset tends to see challenges as opportunities for learning something new, while an individual with a fixed mindset tends to see a challenge as a threat to be avoided. Students in the T³ Alliance learn to recognize and utilize behaviors and patterns of speech that support the development of a growth mindset.

Learning happens easily in STEM fields when an individual feels safe enough to play. Play requires absorption in the activity or equipment that leads to a familiarity and skill level that can later be used for a specific purpose.

The brush bot activity is presented as an opportunity to build a mini robot and play with the variables that affect its motion. Facilitating a fun competition is an opportunity to practice supporting a growth mindset for students.


  1. Understand the difference between growth and fixed mindsets.
  2. Build and race a brush bot with classmates.
  3. Identify vocabulary words that support a growth mindset and those that discourage.

Materials: Brush bot kit, AAA battery, yardsticks, and masking tape.

30 – 45 minutes

Building a Raspberry Pi Computer

Building a computer is an exercise in connecting input and output devices. In this lesson, students will build a computer by first building the frame of the box, and then connecting up the various components of the Raspberry Pi. A Raspberry Pi is a small credit card-sized computer.

Building the boxes can be done with minimal instruction given that the culture of growth mindset has been set. Students figure out how to assemble the boxes in about 40 minutes. If you have an hour, expect that students will spend the final part of class exploring the Pi and getting to know its features.

Materials: Raspberry Pi Computer Kit (unassembled)
Objectives: Build a Raspberry pi computer

45 – 60 minutes

Basic Computing overview – and Linux

Once students have built a computer, they have a concrete idea of how input and output devices work to make computer work. In this lesson, students will delve into the digital side of the computer and learn about memory, processors, and the Linux operating system. This will include an overview of the computing world and how Raspberry Pi and the internet of things are within it. Students will learn how to adjust basic settings on the Raspberry Pi Computer Kit.

Materials: Raspberry Pi Computer Kit


  • Understand how a computer takes in data, stores, and processes it, and then outputs data in a way that we can understand.
  • Understand the history of the IoT (internet of things) movement.
  • Be able to adjust settings and navigate the Linux operating system on the Raspberry Pi

45 -60 minutes

Programming with Node Red and using GPIO

This lesson students will be introduced to basic programming constructs using a simple and powerful visual programming language. This lesson introduces Node-Red and how it can be used to control the GPIO (general purpose input-output) pins on the Raspberry Pi.

All programing languages follow a similar structure to describe inputs, variables, conditional statements, and functions. Node-Red is a programing language that follows these basic concepts in a graphical format.

GPIO pins are a tool for connecting the Raspberry Pi computer with an array of input and output devices. They can be controlled with a variety of programming languages, but Node-Red is one of the simplest and most powerful. Students will use the GPIO and Node-Red to set up an LED light.


  1.  How to save a flow and how to share a flow in Node-Red
  2. Understand the types of flows in Node-Red: input, output and function node.
  3. Understand how to connect a LED bulb to the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi.
  4. How do you use the website to identify other sensor tutorials that are relevant?


Materials: Raspberry Pi Kits (button, LED)

60 – 90 minutes

Setting up a Camera and taking a photo

This lesson will introduce advanced features of Node-Red programming along with the installation of the camera. The basic components needed for a selfie station or security system will be explored during this process.

Setting up a camera involves carefully inserting a ribbon cable into the Raspberry Pi without connection to power. One its in, a Node-Red flow can be built to connect a button or other input device to the camera.

A “selfie station” or security camera includes setting up a trigger and a location for the output photos to be viewed.

Materials: Raspberry Pi Kit


60 – 90 minutes

Listening Skills and design thinking overview

At this point, the students have enough of an understanding of the technology to think of a way to use it to make a difference for someone. The Design Thinking process is a five-stage iterative process that can be as simple as giving a gift, or as complicated as building a solution for an organization. In this lesson, students practice learning a bit about each of the skills, and then pick something to work on as a class in which the instructor (or director) is concerned about something like security. The class/instructor pi should be dedicated to working as an example. The door is opened, or a motion sensor happens and something happens. A voice says something.

Materials: Raspberry Pi Kit


  • Understand the five stages of the design thinking process
  • Understand the importance of empathetic listening

30 – 90 minutes (longer if a class project happens)

Documentation skills

Documentation skills are not only important for communicating with members of your team and with members of the community, but they are critical to organizing and keeping track of learning objectives and creative ideas. The “brain book” is introduced as a STEM journal and encourage student s to contribute to it on a regular basis. This lesson introduces shared documents in a way that effectively works in a team setting. This lesson also introduces how to document a project with photos and videos.

Materials: Raspberry Pi Kit, computer access (laptop, desktop, Chromebooks, or tablets), Google apps suite.


  1. How to use Google Docs to collaborate with your team
  2. How to use a notebook or a brain book as you plan projects
  3. How to incorporate photos and videos
  4. How to make annotations on photos.

30 – 90 minutes

Remote operation with a Pi

This lesson introduces students to the idea that their networked Raspberry Pi does not need to be physically connected to a screen to function. This is a prerequisite for mounting a Raspberry Pi to a wall and allowing it to perform a function. A user that knows the IP address and the necessary network security can log in and operate the pi. Students need to understand the nature of a LAN, and how it typically behaves behind the firewalls that exist as part of a typical school internet connection. Several free programs exist that allow for a remote connection over the internet.

Materials: Raspberry Pi kit,
A separate device from the regular raspberry pi for using as the remoting or client workstation. Could be a phone or a Chromebook, but it needs to be able to connect on the same network.


30-90 minutes

Design Thinking Activity

Design Thinking is a process that, when followed, leads to solutions that take into account the human experience. Although the name design thinking and the movement that surrounds it has become popular during the rise of the Silicon Valley tech industry, at its core is the very old skill of empathetic listening and respectful problem-solving. In the T3 Alliance program, we use this process to facilitate student involvement in real-world problems that have the potential for meaningful and impactful experiences.

The design thinking process can be best introduced through an activity that does not use technology but focuses on the five steps of design thinking in a way that can then be applied to a problem with a solution that might involve STEM technology.

Materials: Handouts for the gift-giving activity from the Stanford D-School
common construction paper and craft supplies.

90 minutes

Printing mechanics

This lesson is about how to set up and use a 3d Printer. A 3d printer is a way to take 3-dimensional design files and create them in the real world with layers of plastic that are extruded from a robotic arm. A review of the history and the mechanics of 3d printing is presented along with an exploration of the materials and constraints associated with. Students will learn to find STL files online that can be downloaded and sliced on a computer program that is specific to the type of 3d printer.

T3 Alliance reccomends the QIDI 3d printer because of its reliability and relative low cost.

Materials:  3d Printer, Filament, SD cards and SD card usb writers. Computer(s) with a slicer program installed.

Time: depends on student / machine ratio.
When only one machine  – 20 min – Demonstration. When 1 machine / 4 students – each student should practice.
1 hour

3d printing design

A 3d printer uses 3d design files called CAD (computer-aided design) files. There is a huge amount of resources dedicated to learning to work with 3d printing. T3 Alliance recommends that students begin with the free software program called TinkerCAD. They will set up a cloud-based account where they can create and save their designs as well as learn the basics of creating a 3D object.
Once students learn the basics of creating shapes, they are introduced to the caliper and how to design objects for real-world applications.


  • Computer or tablets with web access
  • SD card writer and reader. Access to a 3d printer.

1 hour – to 1 week. (Tinker cad has a ton of lessons) Students can move through these lessons.

Mini Grants

A mini-grant is a method for students to ask for funds from the program for a small project that takes place within the context of their T3 Alliance program. In the five stages of the design thinking process, it fits in right before the prototype phase. The students have empathized with the client, defined the problem, ideated a solution and then put together a proposal (mini-grant) before the prototyping and testing phase. This is only necessary when the cost of building the prototype exceeds what you have on hand and consider consumable. When students write mini-grants, they are expected to articulate a clear set of deliverables such as a report, a set of instructions or a video.

Materials: Computer

90 minutes and up depending on the proposal.

Sending data to a cloud

This lesson introduces students to Thingspeak and other cloud services that collect information from a sensor. In this lesson, students will explore the temperature, pressure, and humidity sensor can be a fun way to engage students in some hands-on science experiments. Blowing gently across the sensor can change the temperature and the pressure.

Materials: Raspberry Pi Kit, Computers and an open network


90 minutes

Autonomous Systems

An autonomous system is a series of sensors and devices that are connected in order to achieve a task. In T3 Alliance we use the term to indicate when individual components work together and human interaction is minimized. Self-driving cars or an automated vertical grow tower are examples of this.

The best way to learn about autonomous systems is to take a manually driven system and find a way to use a series of sensors and algorithms to reliably achieve the same sorts of tasks.

The market is filled with examples of automated systems in a variety of fields. Gardeners can purchase sprinkler systems that only turn on when the moisture content of the soil is low, cars are equipped with safety features to alert drivers when they are drifting into another drivers lane. Some vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers are capable of doing their work without a human. All of these products command a premium price. The technology behind these features is often accessible with a little bit of coding and a Raspberry Pi.

Automating a process is what has allowed many industries to create cheaper and cheaper products while labor has become more expensive. Factories are filled with robots that follow specific tasks 24 hours a day and have a number of sensors to detect when something needs to be adjusted.

Tasks that are “clean (with one or two variables)” are relatively easy to automate, tasks that are “wicked (many variables)” are difficult to automate.

The Design Thinking Process is an excellent way to think about structuring the development process for automation.

In the first step, you empathize with the user who needs to be a part in the manually driven system. Then you define the problem, ideate some possible solutions, prototype and test them.

Students that are learning to automate a system need to have almost a mastery level of operation so that they can then identify which tasks are “clean’ and which tasks are not. In the following lessons, a manually driven system will be converted to an automated system after identifying factors associated with operation.

Raspberry Pi Car

This lesson – students take their knowledge associated with the pi and servos and assemble and remote into a Raspberry Pi powered car. When the car is finished, There is a natural extension into a bit of python coding in order to optimize the motors. Students can race the car. Students can then program the car to move in an automated fashion. The car can be modified to have a multitude of sensors and be made capable of running in an off road setting.

Materials:  RPi Car Kit, clear area to race, masking tape to delineate the course)
Time:   initial build 1 hour Modifications – up to several hours / days.
Race – 30 min

RPi Node-Red – Remote Control Car with video stream

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Drones)

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle has the potential to be dangerous. For that reason, we need to build in a safety program to verify that students meet certain skill sets before going further.

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