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Sensors expedition

Mission 6 of 6



90 minutes

Ages 8+

Learn to build a functioning pulse sensor and measure your heart rate.

In this mission, Piperbot and Pip find themselves on a new, swampy planet that makes Pip tired! To figure out if Pip’s pulse has slowed down, you build a heart rate sensor and use it to measure your pulse.

View student interface at




Dr. Monitor

Computer with USB port and Chrome or Edge browser
Piper Make Starter Kit
Piper Make Pulse


Learning Goals

  1. Students will learn about the tools used in a doctor’s office, including a stethoscope, thermometer, scale, electrocardiogram, and blood pressure monitor. 
  2. Students will gain knowledge of how ultrasound technology works.  
  3. Students will learn about the organ systems in the human body (including muscular, skeletal, circulatory, nervous, and digestive) and how we use different technologies to study them.  
  4. Students learn a healthy heart rate and how a heart pumps blood into vessels, changing pressure, which is measurable.  
  5. Students understand how to measure a heart rate by looking at the interval between high points, or peaks, in graphed data.  
  6. Students learn how smartwatches can measure heart rate.

Learning Activities

The following sections will contain step by step instructions for ELA, ELD and Math extensions directly related to this mission. Adjust the directions to fit your ELA, ELD and Math standards.

ELA Extension: Bio-med Tech Tools
  • Start by asking your students to think about their last doctor’s visit. Now ask:
    • Did the doctor or the nurse measure anything?  
    • What tools do you remember?  
    • What about outside the doctor’s office?  
    • Does anyone have a smartwatch?  
  • Ask your students to come to the board and draw any tools they saw in the doctor’s office. Some common ones are the following:  


ELD Extension: Bio-med Tech Tools

  • There are so many things our bodies can do, but when something goes wrong, it can cause people to become very sick. Luckily, we’ve figured out how to use technology to study our body's systems.  


Math Extension: Ultrasonic Range Finder as Ultrasound

  • This OPTIONAL mission is not a Piper Make mission but rather an illustration of how we can use ultrasound in medicine. All you need is a few sheets of graph paper, scissors, and tape. 


⚠️ This challenge requires the ULTRASONIC RANGE FINDER (Sensors or Robotics).

Hardware Diagram

Code Diagram

Tutorial Steps



Troubleshooting Tips

  • Step 1 on the blueprint refers to the bottom piece. Center the velcro piece as the diagram shows in Step 1. 
  • If a message pops up when you connect your Pico to Piper Make telling you that your firmware needs to be updated, accept, and follow the directions. 
  • Do not press hard on the sensor; a light touch with the thumb is all you need. Play around with which fingers get a more accurate result. 
  • For younger students, if they are having difficulty with Step 2 of the assembly, they may find it easier to put the pieces together with all 4 'legs' on the table as if Step 2 shows them unfolded. 
  • The O-Ring may be too tight. Take it off and have the student lightly close the Pulse instead. Alternatively, you could have them use a rubber band or hair tie, or they can tighten the screws, which will help hold the Pulse in the position they want. 


Material Library

A servo, which is short for servomotor, is a special kind of motor that is used to control something by moving it. A simple motor moved by spinning continuously. A servo turns to a specific position and it uses gears to transform the high speed of the motor into more force so it can move things more easily.

The servo is connected using three wires: one for ground, one for power, and one for a signal that tells the servo motor what position to turn to. The Pico tells the servo what position to turn to by changing the width of the pulse that it is sending out. A pulse with a shorter "ON" time will turn to one side, and a pulse with a longer "ON" time will turn to the opposite side.

The motor inside of the servo turns very fast, but it is also weak - it cannot apply very much force. The gears inside the servo convert the motor's high speed and low force into a slower speed with more force.

Career Connections

Robotics Technician: Salary $60,570/yr
Automotive Engineer: Salary $95,300/yr
Civil Engineer: Salary $88,050/yr
Industrial Designer: Salary $75,910/yr

Standards Alignment

CSK12 Framework
  • CA 3-5.AP.17. Test and debug a program to ensure it accomplishes the intendedtask.
  • CA 3-5.CS.2. Demonstrate how computer hardware and software work together as a system to accomplish tasks.
  • CA 3-5.CS.3. Determine potential solutions to solve simple hardware and software problems using common troubleshooting strategies.
Math ELA
  • Grade 3: writing applications-2.1, 2.2;
  • Written and Oral English Language Conventions - 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.7, 1.8
  • Grade 4: writing strategies-1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.10, Writing applications - 2.1
  • Grade 5: Writing strategies-1.1, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6; writing applications - 2.1
  • Grade 3: ELD.PI.A.3.1, ELD.PI.A.3.2, ELD.PI.B.3.5, ELD.PI.B.3.6, ELD.PI.C.3.10, ELD.PII.C.3.6
  • Grade 4: ELD.PI.A.4.1, ELD.PI.A.4.2, ELD.PI.B.4.5, ELD.PI.B.4.6, ELD.PI.C.4.10,ELD.PII.C.4.6
  • Grade 5: ELD.PI.A.5.1, ELD.PI.A.5.2, ELD.PI.B.5.5, ELD.PI.B.5.6, ELD.PI.C.5.10, ELD.PII.C.5.6