Friday, March 4, 2022

Planning for an Electronic Cutter

 My last (Pre-pandemic) March is for Making series had a "Know Your Why" theme. 

I loved reflecting on the "WHY" questions during that series.  As I look for a theme for this year's March is for Making series,  the following theme seems to surface - A CATCHALL DRAWER where a mishmash of useful 'things' end up until you can figure out where they should go.  

During this pandemic pause two things have surfaced - 

(1) The pandemic pause has given us more time to reflect - sometimes in isolation.  And the thoughts that come out of that reflection don't fit into neat little containers in our brain, but they need to go somewhere.

(2) The need for flexibility and for paying attention to cues that we need to "monitor and adjust" continues to be important - even as we (hopefully) move past the Covid 19 pandemic. 

So I think a CATCHALL theme fits for 2022.

On Day 4 of this 2022 March is for Making series, I got an email from a school I had recently worked with that asked  

" I am new to the Cricut but I did end up purchasing a machine . . . 
I was just trying to figure out some supplies that we will need. I have bought some things myself but this stuff adds up fast. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it." 

After crafting a long email with ideas, I realized others might have the same question. 

While I realize that the ideal sequence is to have your "WHY figured out" and to "Purchase what you need to fulfill  that WHY".  But there are times when things don't happen in the optimal order and you just follow your gut. 

An entry level tool like an electronic cutter can be purchased for under $200 these days - Which makes it easier to pick up with some "surplus" funds or from a PTO mini grant or other funding sources.  


So the first question becomes - Is an electronic cutter worth getting for your class/room or  school makerspace?   But we all know the cost of a RAZOR is significantly cheaper than the cost of a pack of the related consumables -  Razor blades. 

Of course it all depends on your WHY - but from what I've experienced, this is a worthwhile investment EVEN if it means there will be a consumables cost that follows.  

But let me return to  the question that was emailed to me - "What are your suggestions for supplies I might need" 

Here is my answer.  (Hope it is helpful to others) 

Good questions...

Before I get into the 'weeds' of 'stuff' let me offer a suggestions that might not only help fund your consumable supplies, but also offer some pedagogical value. 

One way to get started is to start a  Sustainability campaign at your school and offer to make everyone a personalized coffee /water bottle, drinking cup for $5.00  (or more for high quality ones) or so.  Turn the question from "how do we find money for supplies to the problem of
"How might we become a green school  and reduce waste"

This type of project also adds an element of "COMMUNITY"  and PURPOSE.  

It can also be used with DESIGN THINKING framework.  Who are you designing for?  Interview them, come up with a unique design that could include their NAME (or not) and an ICON from the Noun Project.   

You might have the students track the number of disposable cups discarded in a week, record the data, analyze it and compare it over time.  (Credit goes to St. Albans City School for that idea)  You might want to 
talk to ELA teachers in your school to  find some some strong ELA connections ranging from communicating with images to lessons on symbolism. 

Your students can discuss the pros and cons off getting 'cheaper' water bottles and travel mugs at a Dollar Store vs  higher quality ones.  Lots of possibilities for economics / math lessons/ sustainability lessons and more. 
All of this also meets  College and Career Readiness goals.

Setting a culture of  sustainability and eliminating waste will also have the kids measuring for eliminating waste  when they cut vinyl which brings a lot of math in the making -- so have plenty of rulers.
I have kids cut everything on paper or card stock first to test the results.  You can use recycled paper here. 

But since your question was about specific supplies, here are some things to think about

Get some extra blades.  They get dull. 

You'll want to get a couple mats.  One could be cutting while the other is being prepared.  Or have one for testing out paper.

Wide Blue Tape or masking tape is helpful to clear mats of little scraps left behind. 

You'll want to get some weeding tools.  It does not have to be CRICUT brand.  I've ordered dental tools like this

As far as something to rub the vinyl on -  A credit card type card (expired gift cards, etc) work fine - as do a variety of hard edge objects. Have the students help you look around your school or their home. 

You will definitely need TRANSFER paper. I prefer clear transfer paper like this   to the one we were using in this picture, because it makes it easier to align multi-color designs. 

Vinyl comes in  permanent, removable, and other flavors. 
I would start with something simple.  Stay away from glitter or holographic, etc  (for now) 
Less choice is sometimes better for kids.   Black and white are always popular. 
You can look for sheets like this. - look around for best deals  or clearance shelves. 
But too cheap can mean hard to work when weeding, so read the reviews.

You can also buy whole rolls of some popular colors at places that sell supplies for sign shops.

You'll also want some heat transfer viny like this  or this as kids might want to make iron ons for Tshirts or other clothing. 
Do you have an iron / iron board at school? I bet someone would donate one. 

Irons can be dangerous, so eventually you might want a heat press.  But with supervision you can use  an iron and ironing board. 

Remember that LESS is more sometimes.   Constraint is good.  Too much choice can lead to decision paralysis.

Your next consideration will be workflow and the design process.  Have the kids help you brainstorm the workflow.  I can send some things that have worked well for me, if you would like. 

Here are a couple of related blog post that might also be helpful.   and a video that my students made a few years ago that captures the process. 

And to my blog readers, what suggestions might you add to this query? 

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