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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. Students assemble customized robots from laser cut components. Source: Fabrice Florin/CC BY-SA 2.0
August 21, 2018 | Sponsored

By Jennifer Bosavage

An increasing number of schools are providing makerspaces for their students — places kids can create projects with various pieces of machinery, including laser cutters. Some of that equipment carries a hefty price tag, however, so it is critical educators can show school boards that the devices they want to include in a makerspace can provide an attractive return on investment. Often, they need to prove why a laser cutter belongs in the classroom before the class ever gets to try it out.

Laser Cutters Teach Engineering
Horology — the study of time — is a unique and accessible subject that can expose students to structural, mechanical and other engineering disciplines, as well as art. Clock making is a popular project in design and technology classes found in many schools, although it often focuses on aesthetic design elements. However, the STEM content of a horology project can be highlighted through the use of laser-cutting machinery. Clock mechanisms, for instance, are inexpensive to design; the clock itself can be as intricate or simplistic as a student is inclined to make it. According to a 2013 Loughborough University study on applying laser-cutting techniques through horology, schools have seen success in gaining pupil interest in science and technology through this type of approach.

Lasers Invigorate Art and Design Curricula
Laser cutters can produce complex patterns for sewing class, for making stage costumes or for cutting out intricate mandalas. Felt and other flexible materials can be cut to create puppets and stuffed animals; tiles lined with felt can be used as coasters. Balsa wood can be fashioned into bird houses or clocks, or engraved with pictures or designs. When a cutting device is part of an art program, creative juices flow, alongside the refinement and further development of both mathematics and tactile skills.

Lasers Energize Robotics
Many schools start robotics activities in elementary school and continue them up into the final years of high school. As a result, young children get exposed to computer programming skills and learn the importance of following directions. As older learners, they can understand the depths of applied mathematics and take on advanced technology design. Robotics activities can include etching printed circuit boards (PCBs) from a piece of copper-clad board, coated with spray paint and blasted with a laser. A laser engraver can also cut wooden models and etch logos into robot bodies. All age groups are afforded opportunities to practice communication, judgment and decision making through this type of curriculum.

Laser cutters add a dimension of interactive learning to the classroom. They allow teachers to incorporate a hands-on approach, which studies have shown lead to better mastery of complex concepts. For many schools, laser cutters can help reimagine curricula, helping to nurture a connection between the digital mindset and the physical mindset. Students who can transfer their designs into physical reality gives them the experience of "making.” It’s a connection that can be parlayed into a pursuit of engineering, science, art, architecture and much more.

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.

July 25, 2018 |

Grace Dille

Registration is open for the 2018-2019 Future City competition! This is a national competition for middle school students to imagine, research, design and build cities of the future.

Future City allows students to showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. The theme for this year’s competition is Powering Our Future. “Teams will design a resilient power grid for their future city that can withstand and quickly recover from the impacts of a natural disaster,”  according to the Future City website.

Teams of three or more students, an educator, and a mentor will participate in five areas of competition. The areas include a virtual city design (using SimCity), a 1,500-word city essay, a scale model built from recycled materials, a project plan and a presentation to judges at regional competitions in January.

Teams that win their regional competition will receive a free trip to Washington D.C., where they will compete at the national competition. As the grand prize, national winners can win a trip to Space Camp and $7,500 for their school’s STEM programs. Cash prizes are also awarded to second, third, fourth and fifth place.

This competition is a great way to get middle schoolers involved in hands-on STEM activities and teach them how to think like an engineer. By applying math and science concepts to real-world issues, students learn more about how communities work and become better citizens.

Registration closes October 31, so don’t miss out on this awesome opportunity! Check out Future City’s website to learn more and register today.

July 17, 2018 |

Grace Dille

The gender disparity in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields has caused researchers to question why most girls and young women do not consider a degree or career in these fields. New research from Microsoft provides some answers and solutions to help close the STEM gap.

In their study, Microsoft surveyed over 6,000 girls and young women from ages 10-30 to examine their attitudes towards STEM, school, and the workforce. They hope the results from their study will help policymakers, educators, parents, and employers to better understand and overcome the challenges girls and young women face when it comes to pursuing studies or careers in STEM.

The main research findings showed that girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles. Research suggests they need more exposure to STEM jobs, female role models, and career awareness and planning in order to empower them to pursue a career in STEM.

The research also found that girls initially don’t see STEM careers to be creative or have a positive impact on the world. However, even a little exposure to real-world applications of STEM knowledge dramatically changes their outlook.

Another finding showed that girls who participate in STEM clubs and activities outside of school are more likely to say they will pursue STEM subjects later in their education.

According to their research, encouragement from teachers and parents makes an enormous impact in girls’ interest in STEM—especially when it comes from both teachers and parents.

Finally, they found that educators can foster a “growth mindset” among their female students by tapping into their willingness to work hard for results. The research suggests that rewarding the process and effort of learning, rather than exclusively rewarding results, is a powerful way to support girls.

Read the results here from their “Closing the STEM Gap” study, which dives into more detail with real numbers, quotes from girls and young women involved in the study, insightful graphics, and steps to turn this insight into action.

June 28, 2018 |

Grace Dille

Wondering if that chicken in the fridge is still good? Sensors in packaging could soon alert you of dangerous bacteria in various types of food products.

Chemical engineer, Carlos Filipe, at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, has developed sensors to detect the presence of the potentially dangerous bacteria, E. coli, in packaged foods.

To do so, Filipe and his team coated a flexible film in molecules that glow in the presence of E. coli. The sensors glow around molecules that E. coli cells produce, so the material doesn’t have to touch contaminated food to know that the bacteria is there.

These transparent patch sensors, which are about the size of postage stamps, lit up brightly when they were tested on meat and apple juice hosting E. coli. However, when they were touching uncontaminated food samples they did not light up at all.

Filipe and the McMaster team hope to develop films that glow near other dangerous bacteria in the future. Tohid Didar, a mechanical-biomedical engineer on the team, said one of those bacteria might be Salmonella, which is one of the most common causes of food poisoning.

Foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and Salmonella affect 1 in 10 people every year and 420,000 die as a result, according to the World Health Organization. These sensors could help reduce that number and alert people before they consume contaminated foods.

“A food manufacturer could easily incorporate this into its production process,” Didar said. The engineers said mass producing the sensors would be fairly cheap, but the invention would need a commercial partner and regulatory approvals before it reaches the market.

June 13, 2018 |

Grace Dille

Kids can lose up to two to three months of their reading and math skills over the summer, according to the National Summer Learning Association. These losses come at an even greater cost for kids in low-income families, who can fall two-and-a-half to three years behind their peers due to summer learning loss.

Both teachers and parents can do more to encourage kids to continue learning over the summer. Especially because young girls lose interest in STEM at around age 8, the summer is the perfect time to introduce STEM to girls in a fun and innovative way. By incorporating STEM-related topics into summer activities, teachers and parents can help to decrease summer learning loss and increase their kids’ interest in STEM.

How to incorporate STEM-learning into your summer fun:

  • Read. Reading is a great way for kids to keep their minds active over summer. Teachers can offer summer reading lists for age-appropriate suggestions or parents can bring their kids to their local library. Often, local libraries will offer summer reading programs for kids and will use prizes to keep kids engaged. Another option is to get your kid a magazine subscription, to give them new content to look forward to throughout the summer. Check out this great STEM-related magazine, Smore, targeted towards girls ages 7 and up. This magazine is a great option for young girls interested in STEM, providing them with encouragement, role models, and even a pull-out poster in each issue.


  • Play. When thinking about buying toys for your kid this summer, try to select STEM-related ones that will keep your kid’s brain stimulated for hours. One awesome toy to check out is the award-winning littleBits Droid Inventor Kit -- perfect for Star Wars fans. Kids can create their own Droid and bring it to life through easy block-based coding. By using the Droid inventor app, kids can control their droid, give it new abilities, and take it on over 22 missions. Kids can continue to invent with this toy all summer long.


  • Attend a camp. Summer camps are the perfect way to get your kid excited about STEM and immerse them into a fun learning environment. TryEngineering offers two-week engineering camps for 8th to 12th graders at colleges and universities across the United States throughout July. This is a perfect way for students to learn more about engineering, get hands-on experience, meet new friends with similar interests, and become inspired by professional engineers.

Check out these ideas and share your own STEM-related summer fun ideas with us on Twitter or Facebook.

Figure 1. Assembled 3D model of Abraham Lincoln, made from laser-cut taskboard. Source: Epilog Laser
May 30, 2018 | Sponsored

Jennifer Bosavage

Schools across the country are faced with integrating STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) into their curriculum. That can be a daunting task. For teachers committed to hands-on, experiential learning, introducing a laser cutter into the classroom can make STEM lessons fun and much more accessible than learning from textbooks alone. Laser cutters and engravers bring lessons alive; educators know that when students make connections between the concepts in the classroom and concepts in the real world, more parts of their brains are activated and the knowledge gained through hands-on activity more easily transfers to long-term memory.

Laser cutters are investments for schools. To take full advantage of the machinery it is practical to keep costs down per project so more projects can be accommodated. The following are three budget-savvy projects that can easily be adapted to fit into a middle school curriculum.


Using felt cut-outs of organs, students learn about human anatomy. Felt squares are inexpensive and come in a variety of colors. Students create the pattern of each organ and cut them using the laser cutting machine. Each organ is cut from a different color of felt so they can be identified more readily, but students may also want to label them. The organs can then be placed on a felt board on which students have drawn the outline of a body. The felt pieces adhere easily to the felt board; however, they could be attached more securely by simply adding hook-and-loop fasteners to the body and organs.


Students make their own airplanes using balsa wood and learn about flight. Balsa wood is extremely versatile as well as affordable. It’s the go-to material for building model airplanes, so creating flyable planes that are twice as large as those found in a toy store is an exciting project for students. The material list includes balsa wood that is 0.09375 by 4.0 by 36.0 in. for the wings, a 0.5 by 0.5 by 36.0 in. piece of wood for the body as well as a weight (such as a binder clip) for the nose. Students can download patterns from the internet, or try to create their own after taking a tutorial on the necessary qualities to make an airplane that is flight-ready.

3D Model Design

Using corrugated cardboard and third-party 3D-modeling software students can take their two-dimensional images or designs and transform them into 3D models. Modeling software, such as Fusion 360™ from Autodesk®, allows students to turn images into numbered “slices,” which are then cut by the laser. Users simply slide the slices over a center dowel rod support and the image on the screen is now a 3D piece.

For classes on even tighter budgets, nearly any type of clean cardboard packaging can be used – cereal boxes, discarded shipping boxes, even pizza boxes!

Laser cutters and engravers can play an important role in encouraging interest in STEM by providing an easy way to integrate hands-on learning within the classroom. Teachers can easily incorporate projects that “come to life” — and can demonstrate that learning can be engaging without breaking the budget.

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.

thank you
May 8, 2018 |

TryEngineering.org wants to extend a great big THANK YOU to all of the STEM teacher-warriors working tirelessly to help students discover their inner innovators. We know that teaching STEM involves a great deal of planning, preparation, materials, and sometimes even a dash of chaos. By introducing students to STEM you are giving them the freedom to wonder, create, collaborate, tinker, and sometimes even fail. STEM teaches students to stay curious, play, take risks, and never give up. Through these experiences, you are shaping the dreamers, disruptors, and difference-makers of tomorrow!

Future city
May 1, 2018 | Teacher Opportunities

Future City is an award-winning STEAM program adopted by educators like you for over 25 years. Students build 21st-century skills—problem solving, project management, and teamwork—all within an environment that fosters authentic thinking and a growth mindset.

Future City engages young minds and encourages independent thinking. It inspires non-traditional learners and challenges high achievers.

Use this promo code, and share it with your STEAM educator friends so they can register for Future City 2018-2019 for free. You’ll get one of the most comprehensive STEAM programs that aligns with academic standards, including Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.


April 30, 2018 | Announcements

Check out the latest trailer for the Zappy Squirrel App:


Figure 1. A house and topography model. Source: Epilog Laser
April 17, 2018 | Sponsored

Jennifer Bosavage

Laser engravers are versatile pieces of equipment in schools. Not only do they offer a great way to teach students skilled craftsmanship, but they also provide a way for schools to save money on student and teacher awards, directional and instructional signage and various other projects that were once outsourced. Lasers are user-friendly and easy to operate, and most students are mesmerized by the technology when they see the laser in action, which makes them excited about creating their own laser projects. Here are four amazing ways laser engravers and cutters are being used in the classroom.

Architectural Models

Students with an interest in architecture or design can build models of their designs with various types of materials, including wood, acrylic, matboard and other prototype materials. Students learn how to develop a design and then realize it by using CAD programs to create a small-scale replica.

Challenging students to design things that scale-up to a size larger than the prototype encourages them to “think big.” In addition, geology can be built into these types of lessons, with students required to situate their creations on certain topography types.

Musical Instruments

Figure 2. A personalized guitar engraving. Source: Epilog LaserBuilding musical instruments from scratch helps students understand how the instruments work as well as the physics of sound. For example, an electric guitar can be designed from scratch using plywood and a laser cutter. To create a template, students can download images from the internet and use measurements from a model guitar, create the design and then cut out the body using a laser cutter. Using cardboard for the prototype is preferred to allow for adjustments before cutting wood. Students will quickly see how the slightest deviation in design will impact the final product’s sound quality. Additionally, the instruments can be engraved as desired with students’ names or with far more intricate designs. In addition to students building or personalizing their own instruments, school music departments that rent equipment can brand and serialize rental instruments to increase traceability and reduce theft.


Drama departments are frequently in a bind, looking for that perfect costume or piece for set design. Laser cutters can cut fabric to make elaborate, unique costumes for school productions, which allows students who are interested in fashion and theater to laser cut clothes and costumes, another meaningfully way to participate in a school activity. Materials can be inexpensive as well. As noted above, cardboard is an economical choice when creating design prototypes, as it is inexpensive and cuts quickly. Creating structures from cardboard is a simple way to test complex designs. Any sturdy cardboard can be used, from corrugated to recycled shipping boxes. Slotting, stacking and folding the material can all be done without compromising its integrity to create 3D forms.

Figure 3. Design and fabricate unique trophies and awards. Source: Epilog LaserAwards

Laser engravers can certainly handle basic tasks such as personalizing trophies and plaques. But they can also create one-of-a-kind awards using unique templates that administrators or students themselves design. Scrap material can be repurposed into custom awards created from many different types of substrates. Epilog offers an award template to get students started, but there are endless possibilities. A quick search on Pinterest provides many creative ideas for laser cut trophies, medals and awards. We know that student recognition is important, and a unique token of a student’s achievement that is customized just for them makes the distinction even greater.

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.


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