10 Ways Glowforge Can Disrupt Education

It’s been a long time since I have been more excited about the introduction of a piece of technology than I am for the Glowforge.

Aside from all of the personal ways I can see Glowforge help bring my creativity to life, this single device has the potential to revolutionize so many of the ways we do things in the typical school. I have often said, “There is a lot of money to be made in education…just not in teaching.” Schools spend a ton of money that goes to vendors, but here are 10 ways a single Glowforge can change that.

1. Die Cut Letters – The Ellison die cut machines have dominated the bulletin board making market my entire career and their stuff is expensive. A single set of alphabet tiles runs $500 and it takes a ton of time to plan and cut that “Hurry Spring” signage. With a Glowforge you can throw a stack of construction paper into the machine and have your whole set of cut-outs zipped out in a couple of minutes…and you’re not stuck with one font either. If you can type it on an device, you can cut it out of construction paper.

2. Mothers Day Gifts – Think about the huge ramp-up in production value that the average elementary school class could do when it comes to personalized gift crafting. Goodbye paper plate bouquets and hello personalized wooden votive candle holders.

3. Awards and Trophies – Athletic departments and honor societies spend huge amounts of their budgets on trophies, plaques, and awards. Think about the amount of money that could be saved if schools just bought the raw materials and engraved all of their own awards. What if a school created a class where kids designed and created all of the awards? A teacher may have to do final names but 90% of the work could be student driven and done at a fraction of the dough Ned at the trophy shop is charging.

4. Inventory Engraving – Speaking of engraving…instead of a jittery hand with an engraving pen or a sticker that is easily removed, schools could engrave items like laptops and iPads with attractive, permanent identifiers. Check out what Glowforge designers have done with a Macbook.


5. Staff ID Badges – Get creative and save money by creating personalized staff or visitor badges by cutting and engraving them from your choice of materials.

6. Pro-Style Locker Labels – If you have ever seen an interview from a professional or big-time college sports locker room then you’ve seen the fancy headers above each locker sporting the athlete’s name, number, and team logo. With some creativity and cheap 1″x2″ lumber, a school could give its athletes the pro treatment.

7. School Spirit Items – Lots of schools sell items as fundraisers and to boost school spirit. Instead of eating up profits by going to one of the national suppliers, schools could begin buying blank stock items and doing the engraving and laser cutting themselves with a Glowforge. You can’t screen print with it but you can create some amazing luggage tags, pendants, and other personalized signage that can generate spirit, pride, and revenue.

8. Etsy Class – Think of all of the economics and entrepreneurship that can be experienced when students begin to design, create, and market products with a Glowforge. With sites like Etsy and Mercari as global marketplaces, individual students may begin to peddle their wares  to the far reaches of the Internet. It sure beats 180 days of PowerPoint lectures and worksheets.

9. Trick Out Your Office Space – With every Glowforge purchase comes access to the members’ catalog that features projects ready to print and assembly. This iPhone stand is one example of the cool stuff that staff can create for themselves and add a high end, start-up, feel to the workplace. There are a ton of neat items like this available. Glowforge features a similar computer stand in many of its promotional materials that was cut as flat pieces and then glued together.

10. Hands-on Classroom Products – Instead of buying any of these items, just create your own.

•Wooden or Acrylic Cut-out Letters and Numbers for the early elementary classroom

•Wooden or Acrylic Cut-out Shapes or other math manipulates that can be used K-12

•3D Geometrical Shapes that can be cut from all kinds of materials from cardboard to plastics

•United States or World Puzzles cut from plywood or plastic. Team with the art teacher and have kids paint and label each state or country.

•3D Models of Landmarks can be elaborately created by cutting flat slices and assembling a bunch of pieces like this Space Needle or just cut and engrave a 2D image on piece of wood thick enough to stand up on its own or with a small additional brace.

Like I said, I haven’t been more excited about a piece of technology in a long time. It can turn all kinds of creative dreams into reality but it has nearly infinite potential to impact how we do things and what we can create in our schools.

Explore these 8 Avatar Makers

Here are a bunch of sites for creating avatars or custom characters. Due to ads and some character options, not all sites may be suitable for younger students.

Face Your Manga – Anime feel

DoppelMe – Super simple, classic character generator

Madmen-me – Characters in the theme of the show

Mii – Make Wii like characters

Marvel – Create your own superhero

Mini-mizer – Create your own Lego characters

My Blue Robot – Nice editor with many easy to use features

Get Peanutized – Create characters in the style of the new Charles Schulz Peanuts movie out in November

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Third Graders creating scale models of the world’s tallest buildings

Last year my third grade students went big Cane’s Arcade style when creating scale models of the world’s tallest buildings. This activity takes a while but it builds so many skills and hits so many tech and math standards.

  • Research
  • Sketchup 3D model exploration
  • How to work in teams
  • Converting to scale (division)
  • Converting decimals to fractions
  • Measurement
  • Creativity

To me it’s really what STEM or STEAM learning should be about.

This year we are greatly scaling down the size of the buildings. 100 feet of reality equals 1 inch of model. After weeks of prep and design we are finally into the making stages. Here is a quick glimpse of the energy we are generating today.

I will be sure to share some of the finished models when we progress that far.

Point and Shoot 3D Modeling with 123D Catch

The cat sculpture above was created by one of our third graders in art class. It is a nice piece of work in the style of artist Laurel Burch. After it and others were displayed in the library for a couple of weeks students took them home.

We were able to create a 3D interactive digital replica simply through the iPad’s camera and the 123D Catch app from Autodesk.

The app directs the user through a series of shots in order to capture all angles of a 3D object. After some rendering, the app sews together all overlapping images and creates a digital version. It is extremely easy.

The cool thing is that content created in any of the 123D apps can be further edited and developed via a companion Autodesk web app. The cat sculpture had a lot of excess space in the model like bookshelves and background that I was able to remove. Be warned though. Some of the models you send from your mobile device to the app can be pretty big and take significant time and memory to load. Once I cut out the extras, working with model was much smoother.

These models can also be printed at home if you have a compatible 3D printer or 3D prints can be ordered through Autodesk. If you thought the world of Maker Faires and 3D modeling was far beyond your tech savviness, this app makes the process as easy as point and shoot.