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Grades 6-8
6, 7, 8
Grades 9+
9, 10, 11, 12

Sebastian PontusPETE

Smart Home with Photon robot #1 - How to control lights at home remotely (remote classes using Microsoft Teams)

programming • technology • distance learning
Duration time:
90 min.
Programming interface:
Photon JoystickPhoton Blocks
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Scenario Image

Class goal:

  • the meaning of the term smart home and its principle of operation
  • how the light intensity sensor works
  • how to use the “Repeat” and “Wait until” instructions
  • how to make use of a light sensor in a domestic environment
  • how to use the screen sharing feature and remotely control another computer via the Microsoft Teams platform (server-client communication)

Teaching methods:

  • explanatory talk
  • brainstorming
  • simulation

Type of exercise:

  • group
  • individual

Required items:

  • laptops with Microsoft Teams application installed
  • a smartphone or tablet with a camera to be connected via the MS Teams platform
  • two independent MS Teams accounts (an account on a teacher’s laptop (server) and an account on a smartphone/tablet – to stream live video from the camera)
  • cardboard house or a model house for Photon
  • a lamp, a flashlight or a source of intense light (if the light in the room is insufficient for the correct operation of the light sensor)
  • an Interactive exercises on the web app:

Lesson scenario:

An Introduction for teachers 

Classes are conducted on-line using a remote connection with a teacher’s computer via the Microsoft Teams platform. Before commencing the class, please make sure that everyone is logged in to the dedicated group/meeting. 

You can also conduct this class on-site, as this gives you a great opportunity to explain the principle of remote controlling of devices over the Internet. Before you start, please make sure that you have at least two computers with access to the MS Teams platform. One will be a server (with the robot connected to it), while the other will be a client (used to control the robot remotely and to conduct the class, you might want to connect this computer to an interactive screen). You might want to encourage students to perform selected exercises (using web app) on their own BYOD equipment (e.g. a smartphone)


1. Please ask your Microsoft Office platform school administrator to create an additional students’ account for this specific group. From this account, you will be streaming live video of the robot’s surroundings – sample name:
This account should be introduced at the beginning of the class.

2. First of all, please connect your Photon robot to your computer using the Magic Bridge App – your computer will act as the main server. Then, launch the Microsoft Teams on the same computer and commence the class (e.g. in a group call / meeting). Leave the microphone and camera on. 

This newly created connection will allow you to remotely control the robot. 

3. Next, connect the camera (a smartphone or tablet with the second account logged in: to stream live video of the server surroundings (i.e. Photon and its surroundings) to the client computer (students’ computers). On your smartphone or tablet launch the Microsoft Teams app. Log in to the camera server using the previously created dedicated account (e.g.

4. Once you are logged in, leave your camera enabled and the speaker and microphone disabled. Use the on-screen switch to show an image from the rear camera. Place the smartphone on a stable surface or a tripod so it shows the robot and its surroundings. It won’t be really used until it is required for its specific purpose during the exercise (to show the bird’s eye view of the robot and its surroundings). 

If your class takes place in a classroom, you may ask one of the students to participate in this e-meeting directly from his or her account and become the camera operator responsible for live video streaming. 

5. This Microsoft Teams meeting configuration allows for a joint meeting using two accounts with a possibility to switch between them: 

- the server account, from where the teacher is conducting the class, and then makes the Photon Magic Bridge connection (to hand over the control to students). 

- the live video stream account, i.e. the camera account, to show Photon robot and its surroundings. 

6. Once the above is configured, please send invitations to the students to participate in this online class.

Sample scenario:

1. Introduction

Please greet the students and check the quality of the connection, i.e. microphone, speaker. Remind all participants the basic rules of online classes.

Inform students that they can use the “raise hand” feature in MS Teams application.

Please mentioning that there is an additional account connected which will be used as an additional classroom tool to stream video.

2. Warm-up

Send students a link to a virtual jigsaw puzzle depicting the subject of the lesson (slide 1). Then ask students to try and guess the subject of the lesson.


3. The smart home – introduction and benefits

Ask students to explain in their own words the concept of a “smart home”. Then ask them to think about and write down examples of the benefits of smart home solutions. 

After a while, students might want to read out their ideas. Please listen to all the answers.

Summarize this part by listing all the benefits of a smart home. It’s also a great opportunity to practice the “raise hand” feature in the MS Teams app. Students may want to provide oral answers only and explain their ideas of a smart home. You might want to suggest that they use a shared online whiteboard where all students participate (e.g. the Explain Everything web application:

4. Light intensity sensor (an automatic light switch) – the basics

Please explain how the light intensity sensor works.

Then, discuss with the group the benefits of a remote-controlled lighting system at home.

For the sake of discussion students should cover the following topics:
- security benefits (an illuminated house usually deters burglars),
- comfort and convenience, i.e. an illuminated driveway or garage entrance makes it easier to park.

5. Smart Home in practice – A remote-controlled lightning using the Photon Magic Bridge interface: Joystick.

Present how your intelligent house model works (where the main controller and the source of light at the same time is Photon the robot). Then, hand over the control over your computer (the server) to students to they could remotely control the lighting at the model house. Students can turn on/off the robot’s eyes and ears and change their color.

At this point, launch Photon Magic Bridge application and connect to the Photon robot. Then run the Joystick interface inside the application. Switch over to the MS Teams and share your screen with the Photon Magic Bridge application running and the Joystick interface. Explain the principle of remote work with Photon, i.e. students have two accounts

A) an account that allows to remotely control the robot from their computers. Students must ask for permission to access and control the robot (MS Teams command: Give control). 

B) an account to stream live video showing the robot’s environment and allow to monitor the robot’s reactions while using the Joystick. It is worth noting that this task stresses the importance of teamwork as the person that controls the robot cannot simultaneously monitor the robot’s reactions. Therefore, everyone needs an assistant to monitor the robot's reactions via a camera located in its area (i.e. One needs to expand the image of the streamed video). A model house for Photon brings more realism to the task of creating a smart house. Such a house may be simple, made of cardboard or stacked building blocks.

6. Smart home in practice – designing a smart home lighting system

  • Explain the goal of this programming session; the first element of the smart home is an automatic light switch sensitive to the time of day.

We suggest using a blackboard/whiteboard to draw two simple diagrams explaining the principle. Or use our dedicated ready-to-use diagrams from the web app (slides 2 and 3).

  • Students should find out themselves what elements they need to create such a program and how it should work.

Reading out diagrams should help them to list the required elements:
- a light intensity sensor
- robot’s light-emitting elements (eyes and ears) in a bright color (e.g. white) and black (read by the robot as no light).

  • Ask students to create a draft program based on written down commands for the controller (Photon Robot).

If students already know coding instructions used in the Photon Blocks interface, they could try to write the commands themselves. If they need help, please ask them to use the slide no. 4. You might want to ask students to perform this task individually on their own computers and then compare the results together.  

  • Creating the final program using the Photon Blocks interface.

Using the next slide from the web app (no. 5) the students should create on their own devices a program responsible for automatic light switching at home. 


Sample programm:




7. Executing the final program. The real test of the automatic light switching system at home.

Run the Photon Blocks interface on the computer connected to Photon and share your screen with the students. Next, give control over your shared screen to one student who should remotely write the program for Photon in the Photon Blocks application. The same student executes the program.

Remind the other students to monitor the robot’s reactions via the dedicated streaming account. Then, as you are near the robot and can control his environment, change the environmental variable, i.e. the light intensity. You can do it by covering the light sensor with your hand, by switching off the lights or by directing a flashlight beam on the light sensor. 

8. The Lesson Summary

Ask students for a lesson summary; ask them about the advantages of having intelligent house installations, their possibilities, benefits of remote lighting control.


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