Mission Possible (Engineering an Alarm) #4826


This was fun! Just in time for April’s fools day!

I could see this activity fitting into our summer programs as an extra evening activity. We’ve done breakout rooms before and this would be a fun addition or modification to the room.
I think as long as the students had already done some of the activities with the board and were familiar with basic coding the students would need very little extra assistance.
As the facilitator I would explain the background of the activity and then would be available as support if they had questions or issues as they set-up the board.
Student success would not only be wiring the activity on the board, but using it in the real-world with the laser and mirrors. Connecting it to a real-world example of this type of use would be ideal as well!!


Good idea on the April Fool’s Day joke!


Where does this lesson fit in with your curriculum?
I would use this experiment in the Innovation Lab as part of our STEM offerings.

What does a successful teacher actively do during this lesson?
I would model the example for them and show them the final outcome before getting into the details like the code blocks, or circuit setup.

What does “student success” look like?
Student success for this assignment will be the final project execution. However ,there are many steps to get to the final outcome that are very valuable. Participation is key. I agree with some of the comments that listed changes to the coding variables and values as a potential challenge.

Which part or parts of the lesson would your students need extra support in order to successful?
Students need to follow directions and embrace computational thinking best practices.


This was a lot of fun. I would use it as an extra for my honors class. I would not have room this year to add - but I am planning on reordering my curriculum for next year.
I struggled a bit - so I am sure I would need to act as a “cheer leader” for students to not get frustrated, and be sure they try at least 3 - 5 times before they ask for help. I think they would enjoy the creation of an alarm for sure!
I think students would like the idea of lasers, lights, and alarms and being in control of their set up and design.
Thank you!


This is a fun activity that you can extend in the classroom maybe change the challenge or have students create their own challenge. I do need some help with the circuit set up so I would need to do a little more learning on my end before I feel 100% comfortable helping and guiding my students. The video did help but with this one, I am a little not fully comfortable giving it as an assignment but it can be done more as a learning activity and see what the students can create which I know I will learn a lot from them. It is also sometimes good for students to see the teacher learning.


I think it’s great to have the teacher act more as a facilitator so they can explore and make mistakes because those are great learning moments too!


We did a middle school student workshop last year with this exact lesson and this was brand new to the teacher so she teamed up with a couple students as a group and they learned together. I know that the students really liked seeing their teacher learning this with them as well.


This one was a dud for me. I took apart and set up the board four separate times and couldn’t get it to work. If I can’t get it to go, then it’s definitely not a project I would use with the kids; however, I do have a Little Bits kit which is fun (and much easier for the young peeps!) and the alarms using light sensors are fun for them.


Ah sorry to hear that. Any specific details around what didn’t work? Would love to see if we can help troubleshoot this with you.


This was a little more challenging of an activity for sure. I was able to get it work for the most part, but alot of my issues I think evolved with poor eyesight. I had some issues trying to get everything into the correct alignment but I was able to get it to work. Not sure if I would work on this or not to try and get it better. I tried it and it was a really cool idea, I just have not had the time to invest and perfect.


It’s definitely a little tricky to get it perfectly aligned so that the laser lines up. We’ve seen students get really creative with tapes and rulers!


I love your ideas of using this for a circuit for your hearing-impaired students! The highest grade level in my STEM classes is 4th grade, but I see some of them working on this in a station also! Good luck on your grant!


I can see my students loving this activity especially in combination with our Dash Robots in our STEM lab. Some students would enjoy making an alarm go off when the dash robot entered a specific area. I think the youngest I could use this with would be my 4th graders and maybe some 3rd grade GT students. I usually work as a facilitator in my STEM labs, but probably would work along with my students in this lesson. Everything in this lesson seemed to be going perfectly until the very last part when i attempted to reverse the sign in the code to make the alarm only sound when the laser light was not hitting it. I have tried rewiring several times but cannot get this part to work properly. I will keep trying, because I don’t give up easily. I do have some students who would get very frustrated with this fairly quickly as they do all things. I would try to keep encouraging them or have them work on something else a while and then return to this when cooled off. Student success would be to see students working collaboratively on this problem-solving without giving up quickly.


This is a fun activity that I think the kids would would really enjoy. This would be a great to implement as a challege activity. You could have the students break into groups and each group design their own alarm. Then students would then be assigned another group’s design and have to “beat” the alarm to get some sort of item or prize across from an assigned area. This would have the students working together as a team, as well as improving their circuit building and problem solving skills.

The hardest part of this for the students would be building the circuit, but with some assistance they should not struggle with this.


This was definitely a fun and challenging activity! My usual 2nd grade helper (my daughter) is at her Granny’s as we now have school closed due to COVID19. I didn’t realize how much she naturally did when she was helping me! LOL! It is a challenge to see exactly how to set up the circuit, but with a Growth Mindset, I was able to do it! :slight_smile: I definitely enjoyed the challenge of setting up the Mission “Possible” using the multiple mirrors in combination with everything else. I loved reading the idea above of having the Dash robot “infiltrate” and set off the alarm! I also could see this become a challenge to see who could use the most number of mirrors and if there became a natural limit as to the number of mirrors that is possible until the light is not strong enough to reflect. So many possibilities for the engineering of this one! I could definitely use it with my enrichment kids or with my after school Girls in GEAR club to detect when “boys” enter the classroom! Whatever it takes to motivate them! LOL!


I LOVE the idea to use Dash robots with this set up! The kids would love it!


Kids definitely love seeing that teachers can make mistakes and have a Growth Mindset! :slight_smile:


Great idea on designing a game/challenge with the alarm!!


I agree students love to become the teacher and help me out. I always take it as an opportunity to show them that one never stops learning and it is ok not to know everything as long as you keep on trying.


Where does this lesson fit in with your curriculum (if the lesson is not a fit for the class you teach, how could the lesson be modified so that it is applicable to your curriculum)?

I do not teach optics or lasers, but it’s an interesting exercise and could be used to introduce types of lasers the what they are used for. It could be science or engineering.

The basic programming is similar to the previous activity. The difference was interpreting code, modifying code, and introducing the mirrors. The mirrors and determining the angles were and would be the most frustrating part of this activity.

The angles and understanding why light travels like this would probably be one the biggest issues with this activity.

Due to some of the issues, I am not sure about using this activity with all students. Maybe as an enrichment for specific students.

Which part or parts of the lesson would your students need extra support in order to be successful?

Determining the angles would be the biggest issue with the activity. Even for me, it was difficult to get the laser and two mirrors focused on the detector. I also had to adjust the threshold value because the farther away the laser it from the detector, the number of mirrors, it starts to lose focus and brightness. I would assume this is due to the quality of the mirrors and laser.

I also had issues with reading some of the pins (old eyes), so a magnifier should be available to students.

If you were to teach this lesson to your class, describe your role during the class. What does a successful teacher actively do during this lesson?

I definitely would have to do some direct instruction with this activity. I think I would also have to do some research to understand laser and mirrors…I am not a science teacher. I would have to monitor/remind students to keep mirrors and laser properly orientated/aligned. This would definitely take team of 2-3 to complete.

If you were to teach this lesson to your class, describe your student’s role during the class. What does “student success” look like?

My courses are mostly project-based learning (PBL), so students are in charge of their own learning. Success would be a student being able to complete activity, understand basic laser theory, angles with mirrors, explain/define any issues with project, and be able to apply what was learned to future lessons.