How a Laser Cutter Teaches Design Thinking

Imagine your students working through a guided process to solve pressing, real-world problems. They are deeply engaged in this meaningful work, and they are about to become even more engaged as the ideas from their imaginations become actual, tangible products as they are quickly prototyped on the school’s new laser cutter. You’re happy, too, because the project they are working on meets Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards for solving authentic problems.*

 

The Project

Your students are following the design thinking process to tackle this challenge: Design a product that will help a parent or caregiver overcome a daily problem they face.

design thinking process

Students are just about to start prototyping their product ideas on the laser cutter. They have completed the following key stages of the design thinking process:

OBSERVE to UNDERSTAND
Students have:

  • observed their parent-caregiver clients in their day-to-day lives;
  • interviewed them to build empathy by deeply understanding their situations;
  • identified specific needs or challenges that students will attempt to solve.
  •  

DEFINE the CHALLENGE
Students have:

  • thought deeply about what they have learned from their clients;
  • turned problems into solvable challenge statements;
  • selected one challenge statement to pursue.
  •  

GENERATE IDEAS
Students have:

  • brainstormed many potential ways to solve the challenge;
  • referred to their research and to the assignment constraints to choose a number of promising options;
  • further narrowed choices to select one promising idea.
  •  

PROTOTYPE and TEST

  • Students have sketched their proposed products/solutions on paper, on Google Draw, or in an online design program like TinkerCad.
  • They will now create initial prototypes--or rough drafts--of their products.  
  • Then they will test them out with end users, make improvements, and create the final products.
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Your students are so ready to prototype that their excited energy almost overwhelms you!

 

Why Prototype?

Turning an idea from a digital design viewed on a computer screen into a physical model is powerful in the design process. Being able to hold what was before an abstract concept in your hand, turn it around, and actually try it gives you ideas on how to improve it. Or, it helps you realize it’s never going to work and you need to choose a different idea or think up a new one.

Prototyping comes in many forms and that’s an exciting aspect of making. Students can create models with cardboard, scissors, and duct tape. Or, they can print them on 3D printers.  But teachers across the board who have the new DigiLab Laser Cutter say that this tool has revolutionized digital design to physical model prototyping in their makerspaces. Teachers have shared with us their top three reasons why our lasers are the all-time best tools for rapid prototyping.

 

3 Reasons Why the DigiLab Laser Cutter is the Best Tool for Rapid Prototyping

1. Simplicity

  • Compared to traditional industrial lasers that can cost tens of thousands of dollars and require formal training, the Dremel DigiLab LC40 is accessible to students and teachers. With smart safety sensors and intuitive software interface, the DigiLab Laser Cutter is designed to be safe in the classroom and easy to use.
  • You can use a JPEG, PDF, or PNG files for engraving. For cutting, a PDF that contains vector data or SVG file type works.
  • With the camera capture feature, you can directly transfer your students’ hand-drawn sketches into the machine for it to cut or engrave.

2. Speed

  • On a laser cutter, it can take as few as 30 seconds to create a student project versus hours on a 3D printer. For a rough draft, this is key.
  • You can work on up to 20 jobs while one is printing. It is conceivable to produce all of your students’ projects in one class period.
  • The laser stores up to 30 past jobs on the machine. You can create one project after another and even duplicate projects without an internet connection or computer.

3. Materials Cost

  • For prototypes, we love single wall corrugated cardboard! Many schools have found ways of getting cardboard donated, so the materials cost is free. There are many other materials that you can use whose settings are already loaded up in the Dremel DigiLab’s materials library.
  • The DigiLab Laser Cutter has a perimeter check feature, so if you have a scrap of material or a big piece that already has cutouts, the machine can determine how to maximize the leftovers. This works for well prototyping and for final products.
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Laser cutters make it possible for you to do your almost impossible job: teach students and meet standards, all while saving money. This single tool helps open up the time, motivation, and budget to try more risky (and potentially innovative) ideas and it helps students gain a more meaningful experience using the full design thinking process.   

If you want to learn more about how a laser cutter can bolster design thinking skills in your students, please contact our Digilab experts.


*Design thinking projects like this one meet the following standards:

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) - define authentic problems, find solutions based on criteria and constraints, building and testing models
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) - Address real world problems, collaboration, use technology as communication tools, apply understanding of content in a variety of contexts.