Here are seven projects that students will love making while learning valuable skills.
Puzzle: Lasers can both cut and engrave. Students can carve a favorite piece of art or a personal painting onto a thin piece of plywood, perhaps an eighth of an inch thick. They can then cut out the pieces of the puzzle using the engraving as a template for the puzzle. There are also some free ready-made templates available online.
CUTTING BOARDS: Kids can make engraved cutting boards as gifts or for their own use, and they make a great addition to a school cooking classroom. Tape can mask off areas to prevent overburning and ash on unengraved parts. Tip: Choose a lighter, non-streaky wood to start with; it will produce a dark color and deep burn when etched, providing clear markings for optimal visibility.
Cork Coasters: Cork in its natural state is lightweight, resistant to decay, and even fire. It is also impermeable, soft, buoyant and durable. Laser engraving patterns such as constellations, math symbols, or chemical models can reinforce topics discussed in other lessons. The contrast is excellent when laser engraving cork stoppers.
Jewelry: Laser cut wood or acrylic earrings and necklace pendants are very popular when it comes to creating custom jewelry for every occasion. Using metal marking components, the laser can also engrave metal pendants, watch backs and more.
Timepieces: Timepieces have enormous sentimental value. As gifts, they are traditionally used to recognize years of service. Making a clock is a little more complicated than a puzzle, but not impossible. The artwork can be created using a drawing program such as Corel Draw or Adobe Photoshop; clock face vector images are readily available online. Mini quartz hardware can be purchased at almost any craft store and is easy to add after the carving is complete.
Bamboo Bookmarks: Yes, students still read books. Bookmarks are a practical everyday object. Bamboo and cherry wood are both popular bookmark materials, although any hardwood will do. Leather is also a popular material for this application. Laser-cut bookmarks are usually thin—about an eighth of an inch or less—and can be monogrammed or engraved.
High school graduation décor and fundraisers: Items engraved with the year your class graduated can make fun centerpieces at prom or graduation ceremonies. Many advanced classes also sell custom gear or products to raise funds. If students use lasers to create these items, they can keep more of the money raised.
The beauty of these projects is that each can be integrated into other areas of the high school curriculum. For example, a jigsaw puzzle can depict a historical map; quotes from literature can be inscribed on bookmarks; chemical element symbols can be turned into jewelry.
Makerspaces in schools and libraries today expose students to new technologies while learning skills that will prepare them for the future. What you do for fun today may just be part of your career tomorrow.