Friday, October 20, 2017

Vinyl Cutting in a Maker Space

When you think about maker spaces one often imagines  tools like 3D printers and laser cutters.  And even though I would eventually want both of these tools in a school maker space, there is a starter tool that I would get in my school maker space immediately - a desktop vinyl cutter!

My first impression of a vinyl cutter was that it was 'just' a sticker machine;  but that was BEFORE I saw it in action!     Here is a quick video of what happened when I brought a desktop vinyl cutter to Tech Savvy Girls Camp! 

The AHA I got from that experience is that this tool INVITED these middle school kids to make in ways that I think MANY maker spaces are looking for. 

The experience with the vinyl cutter left our users wanting to MAKE more! 

  • It was easy to learn - low threshold.
  • It sparked the imagination into thinking of possibilities. 
  • It provided students with an opportunity to practice creative thinking by thinking of constraints and how to work with and around the constraints.
  • It helped students gain confidence working with both manual and digital tool and processes. The students got a chance to build skills  measuring,  working with precision,  planning carefully,  and using design tools. 
  • It provided a quick win -  that had them thinking of new ways to use the tool.
  • It made learning personal!  
  • It naturally lead to the EMPATHY stage of design thinking - How might I make ____ for _____. 
  • It lead to thinking  about  sustainability in that they could repurpose, redesign, recycle many objects using their new skills and available tools and materials. 
  • It provided  a first experience with design tools and the process of designing for computer controlled machines.  
With their new understanding of how design tools can be used to create and send information from the computer to control a piece of equipment they not only provided foundational skills but also confidence to venture to other cutting tools that have require a bit longer on boarding like a laser cutter or CNC router.

Although Vinyl Cutters often have their own software to control the cutter itself,  we encouraged students to design on tools like Google Draw  or -  both of which can export as SVG.

In this short video,  CeCe shares how she designed her water bottle using Google Draw.

While an entry level machine like the Cricut or Silhouette provide an easy entry point for smaller school maker spaces,  increased use  may lead a maker space to look at more serious vinyl cutters like the Roland cutter found in Leah Joly's classroom/maker space. 
     Leah's students weeding vinyl designs for
     classroom stool facelift project

More student projects below:

Looking around at her classroom and the student projects on her blog is evidence that this tool can really make a difference when working with students on putting forth and sharing quality work. 
Educator Ron Berger essay on creating a classroom culture where students are given the tools and time to do BEAUTIFUL WORK  is one of the justification I share for including a vinyl cutter in your classroom/ maker space. 

Student work from Leah Joly's students 

Is there a more profound lesson than taking pride in creating work of importance and beauty for a real audience?  .... Ron Berger (Beautiful Work)

Once a Vinyl Cutter becomes part of an available set of maker tools, it will work its way in other maker projects adding elements of 'beautiful work" to the project. Imagine your students putting their maker skills to use to Rebuild a Kid’s Bike like this project by @Woodshopcowboy


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