Using a Glowforge in a Library Makerspace: Introducing Students to Laser Cutting with a Nametag Project

Designing a name tag can be the ideal first project to introduce your students or patrons to your makerspace!

The first is for purely practical reasons. You want your patrons to get to know each other by name quickly. If everyone makes a nametag and wears it when they are in the makerspace, it will help your new students get to know every one quickly, and help your more experienced students get to know the newer folks, too.

Second, it can be a great community builder. Having a nametag is a sign that you are now “officially” part of the club. My tags are made out of a cherry plywood that looks a lot like the wood of our library shelving. I make a big deal of saying that their name tag is made out of the same wood, so they are now officially part of our library! My students proudly display their name badges on their backpacks, so it’s also a fun advertising ploy.

Third, it’s going to teach them to work as a team. In our maker club, my second and third year students can become “maker mentors.” These are students who have a special interest or expertise in a certain skill, such as laser engraving or 3D modeling. When a student is finished with their design and ready to submit it to be produced, they first have to check it off with a maker mentor. (They are also encouraged to ask them for help along the way as they work on their design.) I work with these mentors so they know what kinds of things to look for as students pass off their projects. Having students pass off their nametag design with one of the mentors is a nice introduction to the process for future projects. And it’s an easy project for the mentors to check off, so gives them an easy one to be successful with, unlike a more challenging project to troubleshoot like creating a 3D model.

And last, it’s going to teach your students valuable skills that apply to several other platforms. The difference between vector and raster graphics is fundamental to a lot of things, as is pathing your fonts and then joining them together (for cursive fonts) to preserve the lettering design. Once they learn how to use Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator to do this, it’s an easy transition to designing for tools like our Silhouette vinyl cutter or our ShopBot Handibot CNC machine later on.

Training students on using the tools is relatively easy if you take advantage of the classroom management tools your school uses. I use a course website portal that I created just for my maker club that allows me to create “modules” for each project. I filmed a screencast tutorial showing my students how to do create their nametag file that they can follow along with. I also filmed my own safety video on how to use our laser cutter, and how to adjust the settings within the program. Students take a quiz to check their understanding, and once they pass it and successfully complete their project they earn a badge for that skill. (It’s literally a badge…we made buttons for each project. If you provide a club lanyard for their nametag, students can add their completed buttons on it so other students can see who they can ask for help!)

This process will work with any laser cutter; in my school (and home!) makerspaces I have Glowforge Basics. This post is not in any way sponsored by Glowforge–I just love my machines and am happy to answer any questions you might have, especially if you are considering purchasing one for a school setting. If you decide to purchase a machine, you can use my referral code by going to This is similar to a coupon or discount code, since it will save you $250 off a Glowforge Plus, or $500 off a Glowforge Pro…and I will get free materials so I can keep making projects to share on my blog, so you can share them with your own makers!

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