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TryEngineering Today!

TryEngineering Today! is dedicated to providing the latest news and information for students, parents, teachers, and counselors interested in engineering, computing technology and related topics.

Figure 1. Schools can save significant sums by engraving their own awards, plaques and signs. Source: Epilog Laser
March 16, 2018 | Sponsored

Jennifer Bosavage

For middle schools and high schools a high-quality, durable laser cutter engraver is a highly sought-after tool. Even elementary schools are getting excited about this type of equipment. Laser cutters help to develop valuable technical skills, nurture logical and creative thought processes and, in the long run, can actually save schools money.

In addition to classroom usage, schools with laser cutters can create their own student and teacher awards and recognition products, design and produce directional and instructional signage and fabricate much more. While some school boards might have little money to spend on new equipment, a case can be made to show budget-minded school boards why they need to consider laser cutters, and how such tools can make the investment worthwhile.

1. Laser Cutters Develop Technical Skills
Learning to use a laser cutter and engraver is fairly easy. Because they’re intuitive and easy to operate, less time is spent teaching students how to operate the machinery so more time can be devoted to actually using it. Laser cutting systems work in a way that's similar to printers but instead of ink, the laser uses a beam of light to etch and engrave or cut through a variety of materials. Students can learn how to operate a laser, use graphic software to design for the laser, ensure proper laser safety and develop computer-assisted programming skills.

The technical skills students develop in high school might well expose them to a career path. Those in the skilled trades are well compensated: on average, the paychecks for trades are either at or above other careers. Research from the State of Michigan found that skilled trades provide an above average median wage, paying between $12 and $34 an hour. Laser cutters help educators transform students into project-based builders well before they reach the job market. Those skills serve students well regardless of whether they are looking for a full-time or part-time job, and also can provide the foundation for a budding entrepreneur.

2. Laser Cutters Foster Creativity and Design
All laser projects require a design plan. This typically is created in a vector-based graphic software program that tells the laser where to cut and where to engrave. Designing for the laser helps develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. In addition, research has found that students learn better and retain more with hands-on projects that have real-life applications. Students can create virtually anything using laser cutters, from simple projects such as text engraving to more intricate 3D models, all while practicing math skills, learning laser design skills and creating finished products.

3D printers are another commonly sought-after device for schools and are great companions for laser cutters in a student makerspace. However, if the school must choose between a 3D printer and a laser cutter, smart money is on the laser cutter. Lasers are significantly faster than 3D printers. Due to their speed, lasers can help ensure that every student in a typical class can complete a small project in a single period.

3. Laser Cutters Deliver Bang for the Taxpayers’ Buck
A school with a laser can produce its own student and teacher awards and plaques, as well as one-of-a-kind gifts or custom promotional products for fundraising. No more time is wasted trying to find affordable outside vendors when so many tasks can be accomplished by students in a variety of classes, clubs or other programs. For example, drama students can use the laser to create and enhance sets, props and costumes.

Sports departments can cut custom appliques for jackets and team t-shirts, or even engrave game-winning commemorative baseballs, footballs and equipment. Art students can experiment with new materials and applications to hone their craft and create new pieces. Music departments can use the laser to serialize or brand instruments to reduce theft.


The most effective school boards invest in programs that support and cultivate student learning — the top priority. School resources, therefore, are spent on promoting achievement for all students. Laser engravers and cutters can be utilized by an entire school community, including teachers and faculty. Not only can the machines teach a valuable skill that could lead to a career and potential entrepreneurship, but also pay for themselves by allowing operators to create products the school would have to spend taxpayer money on. Effective boards understand their accountability to the communities they serve. Therefore, procuring a school laser cutter should be looked on as an investment in students and schools, rather than as expenditure.

Content sponsored by Epilog Laser: https://www.epiloglaser.com/gs-try-engineering/.

This content was provided by Epilog Laser. In business since 1988, Epilog Laser has worked hard to become the leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. We are innovators. We are problem solvers. We are committed to designing and manufacturing the highest-quality laser systems, right here in our Golden, CO headquarters. Read More.

March 8, 2018 | Profiles

Check out this inspiring profile of EPICS in IEEE leader Victoria Serrano. Learn about her LEGO EV3 Snake project out of Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá and what a STEM career means to her. #WomenInStem #EpicsinIEEE

Read more: http://epics.ieee.org/project-leader-spotlight-victoria-serrano/

March 1, 2018 |

Motivating Students to Read and Write: The Role of eMentors

Thursday, March 1, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm EST

Presented by Laura Woodside, National Board-Certified Classroom Teacher and Vice President, Education Products for Cricket Media; and Graceann Griffin, Basic Skills & Gifted and Talented Teacher, Harding Elementary School, Kenilworth, NJ
Sponsored by Cricket Media.

If you attend the live session, you’ll be emailed a CE certificate within 24 hours of the webinar. If you view the recording and would like a CE certificate, join the Connected Teaching and Learning community and go to the Webinar Archives folder to take the CE quiz.

Motivation determines, directs and sustains what students learn. When it comes to writing, most students struggle to find that motivation. In this edWebinar we will take a close look at how giving students grades 3-5 in under-resourced classrooms an authentic audience for their writing can dramatically boost their intrinsic motivation to write.

Laura Woodside and Graceann Griffin will explore how matching students with caring adult pen pals can give them personalized writing support, writing role models, and the opportunity to experience the real-life value of reading and writing. Join us to learn about:

  • The benefits of integrating eMentors into the curriculum to support purposeful writing instruction and provide added individual attention for students
  • Creative techniques to leverage the mentoring experience to build literacy, communications skills and engage students in early career explorations including STEM careers
  • How to safely and securely support student and eMentor relationships and model how students can benefit from connections in the larger community
  • Why eMentoring is a growing micro-volunteering opportunity that adult volunteers love
  • How to leverage students’ writing with their eMentors to uncover students’ interests and challenges so instruction can be personalized and individualized to further engage students

There will be time to get your questions answered after the presentation. You will take away new techniques for building reading, writing, critical thinking, and technology skills through authentic, purposeful content and career explorations as well as practical suggestions for integrating community and industry volunteers into your classroom. You also will hear about eMentoring programs that are currently available for K-12 classrooms and the opportunity to apply for an eMentoring grant program to get 1:1 mentorship for your students for the 2018-19 school year. School librarians, teachers, administrators, and all educators interested in motivating students to write will enjoy and learn from this live, interactive session.

Join the Connected Teaching and Learning community to network with educators, participate in online discussions, receive invitations to upcoming webinars, view past edWebinars, take a quiz to receive a CE certificate for a past edWebinar, and access free resources.




Coding wooden blocks
February 27, 2018 | Teacher Opportunities

New to computer science? No worries.

Whether you are new to teaching computer science (CS) or have experience teaching other CS courses, the program is designed to promote growth by providing space for you to become comfortable with curricular materials, CS content, and pedagogy. Our curriculum provides a complete set of lesson plans that include inquiry-based activities, videos, assessment support, and educational tools.

The program supports teachers with diverse teaching backgrounds as they prepare to teach either of the following courses:

CS Discoveries (Grades 6-10)

  • CS Discoveries is an introductory computer science course
  • It empowers students to create authentic artifacts and engage with computer science as a medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun.
  • The curriculum is recommended for middle and high school students (grades 6-10)
  • Can be taught either as a semester or full-year offering. 

CS Principles (Grades 9-12)

  • Computer Science Principles (can be taught as an AP​®​ course)​ is also an introductory course that requires no computer science background (from students or teachers).
  • We recommend it for students in grades 9-12 with stronger reading and writing skills.
  • More than a traditional introduction to programming, it is a rigorous, engaging, and approachable course that explores many of the foundational ideas of computing so all students understand how these concepts are transforming the world we live in. 

Do you teach elementary school? Learn more about our professional learning for grades K-5 here.

Apply Today!

Learn more about each program and apply today! Priority deadline for applications is March 31, 2018. 

Figure 1. After sending a job to the laser at the Pikes Peak Library District makerspace, operators eagerly wait for their projects to be completed. Source: Epilog Laser
February 23, 2018 | Sponsored

By Jennifer Bosavage

"Shop class" — featuring metalworking or woodworking equipment — was a staple of mid-20th century curricula. Students learned to design, measure and finish napkin holders, birdhouses, wind chimes and a myriad of other projects. However, by the turn of the century, shop classes had virtually vanished from all but the most specialized of high schools.

Today, however, technology has introduced an efficiency aspect to shop classes that is appealing to both students and their instructors. Laser cutters have been introduced into many shop classes and their acceptance has been remarkable. The tools offer students endless possibilities to express their creativity. Students can experiment using a wide range of materials, and the machines are capable of handling projects of varying difficulty levels.

Schools that have introduced laser cutting in a woodworking or engineering program offer students the ability to create projects as varied as balsa wood airplanes to gumball machines. The process is much more streamlined than it was a generation ago. Using a laser cutter, students can cut, mark and engrave, all with the same machine. That saves space in the shop or lab, which is at a premium, particularly at crowded schools. Learning about how one machine operates, rather than studying the ins and outs of several different machines, decreases the student learning curve. Students can get on with the creative part of designing and building more quickly. Since lasers can both engrave and cut, students can cut pieces and parts to build 3D models, prototypes or other products.

Laser shop class appeals to a range of learning abilities and is engaging for  most students. Districts report that a broad cross-section of students have expressed interest in using the laser cutters. Kids without laser cutting experience, background or skills may feel a sense of accomplishment after learning to use the machines, much like the students who have already experienced this technology as they expand their skill set and tackle more in-depth projects.

Laser cutters are available in various price ranges, which means schools with virtually any budget can invest in the technology. Inkscape is free design software and runs on Mac, PC or Linux, but AutoCAD and other popular software can also be used to design incredibly intricate objects. And while students can still create home goods, many districts are using these shop classes to build practical items for use within the schools; for example, making acrylic enclosures for electronics projects, cardboard prototypes of larger creations or even simple signs for use around the school campus. Custom instructional materials are also popular projects done in cooperation with teachers.

Just as in the shop classes of yesteryear, safety is a concern. Today’s technology, however, has changed.

Some safety notes for the shop laser cutters:

1. Laser cutters such as the Epilog CO2 models are classified as ANSI Class 2 lasers and they are generally not hazardous to the eyes or skin. The output of the embedded, high-power, CO2 engraving laser is fully contained, and the machinery automatically shuts down if the door is opened during operation.
2. Exhaust and filtration must be planned. Some materials release harmful gases and particulate when they are cut. Most facilities vent outdoors if possible, but if not, portable filtration units can be recommended.
3. There is a risk of fire because the high-intensity beam of laser light produces high temperatures and some materials may unintentionally ignite under certain conditions. Generally, wood, acrylic, cardboard and cork can be easily and harmlessly cut. Never run the laser unattended.
4. Laser companies include safety information and precautions in their manuals. Schools can mandate that teachers complete training courses or develop individual safety plans and check lists to ensure safe operation of the machinery.

Today, shop classes can incorporate new technologies into classrooms that are transforming into makerspaces, with laser cutters taking center stage. With fun, easy-to-use equipment such as laser cutters available, shop classes may be on the verge of making a comeback as a way to teach middle and high school kids the skills that can help prepare them for their future.

Content sponsored by Epilog Laser: https://www.epiloglaser.com/gs-try-engineering/.

This content was provided by Epilog Laser. In business since 1988, Epilog Laser has worked hard to become the leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. We are innovators. We are problem solvers. We are committed to designing and manufacturing the highest-quality laser systems, right here in our Golden, CO headquarters. Read More.

February 21, 2018 | Events

Engineers Week (18-24 February 2018)--the only event of its kind--is a time to:

  • Celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world
  • Increase public dialogue about the need for engineers
  • Bring engineering to life for kids, educators, and parents

More than a week-long event, Engineers Week is a year-round commitment to making a difference.

Check out some suggestions from DiscoverE on how you can participate!




  • Follow #GirlDay2018chat to join our Twitter Chat on February 21st at 8:00pm EST/USA.
  • Share what inspires you to engineer on your social networks #Eweek2018.
  • Participate in engaging conversations at this year's Global Marathon—actionable career advice for today's busy professional. Every Wednesday at 12:00pm EST/USA (March 7 to April 4). Sessions will be rebroadcast with live Q&A on Thursdays at 12:00pm GMT/UK and IST/India.

Thanks for all you do to inspire wonder during Engineers Week and beyond.

two teens on laptop
February 5, 2018 | Student Opportunies

What is Girls Go CyberStart?

CyberStart is a fun and interactive series of challenges that offer the chance to explore exciting topics such as cryptography, penetration testing and digital forensics.

You should play the Girls Go CyberStart challenge if...

  • You like solving puzzles
  • You are curious about cybersecurity
  • You like winning cool prizes
  • You are interested in saving the world

Do I need to know coding, hacking, or computer security to be able to play CyberStart?
No! No prior computer knowledge is needed and students from all educational backgrounds are welcomed. Do you enjoy solving problems, logically working through challenging tasks and learning new skills? Then you have what you need to succeed at CyberStart!

How do I participate in GirlsGoCyberStart?

  • Create a team of 1 to 4 girls - All members of the team must attend the same school. Each member may play for just one team.
  • Get a staff member from your school to be your advisor (see below) - Be careful to use correct registration details as your information will be required for competition and prize eligibility.
  • Register your team account and reply to all confirmation emails during the registration period - HURRY to confirm because this round of Girls Go CyberStart is limited to the first 10,000 girls with completed team registrations.
  • Play! - Once the competition period opens, your team will need to solve as many of the CyberStart challenges as possible.

Who can play?

To be eligible to play in GirlsGoCyberStart, you must be:

  • Female.

  • Enrolled in 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grade at a public or private school or the homeschool equivalent.

  • Your school must be located in one of the following states in the US or the following US territories: American Samoa, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming.


Top 3 scoring teams overall:

  • Each team member: Trip to Wicys conference 2 nights/2days in Chicago + $100 Gift Certificate.

  • School: $2,000

Additional prizes are also awarded!

When does Girls Go CyberStart begin/end?

Registration opens January 29 and closes February 16. Game play begins at 09:00am EST on February 20, and stops at 11:59pm EST on February 25.

Learn more and register at: https://girlsgocyberstart.com/

Old freight train
January 25, 2018 | Teacher Resources

A new Inquiry Unit (IU) has been posted on the IEEE REACH website!  Head on over to reach.ieee.org and check out the new IU on Refrigerated Rail Cars.  Remember, all REACH resources are free and you can pick and choose the resources that work best for you.

Many of us would hardly consider the technological advancement of the refrigerated rail car worth mentioning among such achievements as the printing press or the radio. But this single development may be the most important factor in what we eat, how our food is produced, and where we live.

Demonstrate the magnitude of this important technology by implementing the free REACH resources in your classroom. Start with the Teacher Background information, review the Inquiry Unit, and see which excerpts, performance tasks, and primary sources work best for you!  Don’t forget about the hands-on activity, which will help solidify students’ understanding of the fundamental connections between technology and society, and how they touch their lives today.

IEEE REACH provides teachers and students with educational resources that explore the relationship between technology and engineering history and the complex relationships they have with society, politics, economics, and culture. REACH was created by the IEEE History Center, a unit of IEEE whose mission is to preserve, research, and promote the history of information and electrical technologies.

Learn more at: http://reach.ieee.org/hands-on-activities/

Figure 1. Laser engraving machines are increasingly a part of educational curriculums. Source: Ulrikabergfors/CC BY-SA 4.0
January 24, 2018 | Sponsored

Kids love to make things — and when those things are made with machines, the fun factor increases exponentially. Local libraries as well as school districts are building "makerspaces," places where children can design, build, test and rebuild. Such labs comprise digitally controlled fabrication machinery, including 3D printers, laser cutters and milling machines. 

Teaching kids about laser cutting software as part of a shop class or art curriculum is a natural extension of STEM programs. It also provides an opportunity to learn a skill that could lead to future opportunities.

The laser cutting software chosen should be as flexible as possible. For example, Epilog features an open-architecture software design, so these systems work with nearly any Windows vector-based graphic design software. Many manufacturers require users to learn their proprietary design software, which takes time away from the enjoyment of creating. Most Epilog operators use CorelDRAW software, but other popular programs like Adobe Illustrator andAutoCAD can be used as well.

The software operators use is what drives the laser, which can be used in three modes: raster engraving, vector cutting or a combination of both. The way the artwork is set up in the design software will determine how the laser operates. 

Raster Engraving 
Raster engraving can be best described as high-resolution dot matrix “printing” with a laser. It prints many thousands of dots per inch (dpi). Depending on how dark the area to be etched is, the more dpi will be applied.

Raster engraving is used to create highly detailed graphic images. The laser head scans back and forth, left to right, engraving a series of dots one line at a time. As the laser head moves down line by line, the dot pattern forms the image that was printed from the computer. Scanned images, text, clipart, photographs or line drawings can be raster engraved.

Vector Cutting 
In vector cutting, the laser follows a continuous path that traces the outline or profile of an image. Vector goes in a straight line that will etch much like a knife will cut. Vector cutting is normally used to cut completely through materials such as wood, acrylic, paper and others. It can also be used for quick marking of characters and geometric patterns.

Combined mode is used when a user is both engraving and cutting within the same job. The laser itself is very much plug and play. It’s learning the design software that can be more challenging, especially for those without a design background. That’s why it’s so important to understand how the laser sees different images and lines. Once users have those fundamentals down, learning how to design for the laser becomes much easier.

Laser cutters/engravers are exceptionally versatile when it comes to different materials. While many substrates engrave and cut differently, the only non-compatible laser material is polyvinyl chloride. Aside from being extremely messy to work with, PVC releases a corrosive gas that is harmful to the inside of the machine and the laser operator. Other than that, students can use nearly any kind of material (wood, acrylic, fabric, cardstock, etc.) Just make sure to use the recommended settings provided in the manual, and never leave the laser unattended.

A major part of the learning experience for children is prototyping and testing their designs. Encourage experimentation: different types of wood will engrave and cut differently; a slightly thicker sheet of acrylic might need just a hair slower speed or a smidgen higher on the power than a thinner one.

The laser cutter quickly becomes the workhorse of any makerspace or fab lab. A few possible educational projects include:

  • Laser-etched hieroglyphics to learn about ancient civilizations (humanities studies).
  • Laser-cut, eco-friendly smart houses; kids design eco-friendly house plans and then laser cut the walls, roof, floor, furniture and fixtures and build prototypes (science and engineering).
  • Laser-cut Etch-A-Sketch; students learn about slope by laser cutting gears and building their own Etch-A-Sketch mechanisms (mathematics).
  • Laser-cut gliders, where students design and build gliders as part of an aerospace unit (science and engineering).
  • Engraving trophies for chess tournaments, making signs for the school garden and other school citizenship projects.

Content sponsored by Epilog Laser. https://www.epiloglaser.com/gs-try-engineering/

This content was provided by Epilog Laser. In business since 1988, Epilog Laser has worked hard to become the leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. We are innovators. We are problem solvers. We are committed to designing and manufacturing the highest-quality laser systems, right here in our Golden, CO headquarters. Read More.

January 8, 2018 | Student Opportunities

Calling All Future Innovators!

TryEngineering Summer Camps are two week co-ed residential summer camps for rising 8th through 12th grade students held at four premier colleges and universities across the US.

Students participating in TryEngineering Camps will work in teams with other students, be inspired by professional engineers, and learn about cutting edge research done at the host schools by current graduate students. Students will participate in a broad range of hands-on activities throughout their two weeks on campus including working in teams to solve engineering challenges such as:

  • building and launching rockets,
  • creating a robotic arm out of everyday materials, and
  • designing and soldering working circuits.

They will experience problem-solving and troubleshooting, and gain insight on what it is like to study engineering in a college atmosphere. Students will explore many engineering disciplines, including electrical, civil, mechanical, chemical, and aerospace, and see how engineers work in teams to solve global challenges.  Students will leave having forged new friendships, developed a sense of what engineers do, explored engineering career and degree options, and experienced living and studying at a top university or college.

Program Dates:

Session 1: July 1st – July 14th, 2018 
Session 2: July 15th – July 28th, 2018 



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