All Tied Up: Wearable Device Designer – SCOPES-DF

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
Fab Tools
MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4, Fab-Safety.1, Fab-Modeling.1, Fab-Fabrication.1, Fab-Design.1
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Aidan Mullaney
Aidan Mullaney
Aidan Mullaney is the Instructional Manager for the GE/Celtics Brilliant Play Lab. His primary role with the Fab Foundation is developing and delivering curriculum for the middle school mobile lab. Aidan facilitates career-related activities with a focus on STEM in… Read More


Students are challenged to develop a wearable shoelace device. The device should both keep the wearer’s shoelaces tied and be easily removable. The lesson uses 2D vector design software and a laser cutter to produce student prototypes. This real world challenge also introduces students to a career in wearable technology.

This lesson will additionally introduce students to careers of the present and the future, as well as provide opportunities for developing Essential Skills that are critical in supporting student success.

What You'll Need

Laser Cutter

Computers (one per pupil) w/ Internet access


  • Inkscape
  • TinkerCAD – optional

Cardboard or Wood Sheets – for laser cutting

Acrylic Sheets – for laser cutting

Prefabricated shoelace devices for display



3D Printer – optional

The Instructions

Day One

The instructor will introduce the concept of designing a wearable device by identifying a need or problem. Students will begin ideating devices with their needs in mind and explore Inkscape through guided challenges to build the foundation of vector software skills.

Engage (EDP: Identify)

Essential Skill Focus: Goal Setting, Agility, Teamwork

Time: ~10 minutes

Materials: Projector, Computer, Laser Cutter, Acrylic or Cardboard, Paper, Pencil


Before class begins, ensure there are example, prefabricated shoelace devices to show students as they enter. You may also want several designs cutting out on the laser cutter for students to view.

Organize students into groups of two – four.

Share with students the following video of a Celtics player losing his shoe:

Ask students, “As the player, how are you feeling? Where did the problem occur? How did it happen? What is the problem?”

Direct students to look at their shoes. “What problems do you have with your own shoes? How could they be improved?” Share results from student groups.

“Think about devices you’ve seen in the past that address these issues. How do those devices function?” Examples: Lace Locks lock a lace with a spring and plastic casing, Lace Bands wrap around the laces of the shoe.

Inform students that digital fabrication can rapidly produce customized devices.

Explore (EDP: Research)

Essential Skill Focus: Goal Setting, Perseverance, Agility, Teamwork

Time: 30-50 minutes

Materials: Paper, Pencil, Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (Computer mouse)


Display or pass out prefabricated shoelace devices and ask “Would a device like this prevent your shoe from falling off? If not, how would it fail to prevent this? Finally, what improvements could be made to the device to fit your shoe or any number of shoes?

Ask students to record and share their response to these three questions.

Inform students they will be exploring a 2D vector software and laser cutter by creating customized devices to prevent shoes from falling off. In order to do this, everyone will need to become familiar with Inkscape.

Ask students to share any of their questions about the challenge: time, materials, quantity of devices, etc.

Pass out computers. After opening Inkscape, allow students 5-10 minutes to create and explore with limited or no guidance from the instructor.

Ask students to answer a set of questions around basic display and object properties, not limited to the following (5-10 minutes, these answers will be revisited later):

  1. How do I add a shape to my canvas?
  2. When my shape is selected, what can I do to the shape?
  3. What does the “5” key do? What about the “4” or “3” key?
  4. What happens when I choose View → Display Mode → Outline?

At this point instructors may help students. Once students understand the basic display and object property features, challenge them with the following tasks (10 minutes):

  1. Save the file as “STUDENT NAME” and “SHOE DEVICE”
  2. Set up the document to the size of the laser cutter (24” x 12”)
  3. Add a rectangle shape to the canvas
  4. Resize the rectangle to a width (W) of 1.5 inches and height (H) of 0.75 inches
  5. Create two identical circles with a diameter of 0.25 inches and place inside of the rectangle
  6. Save your file


Day Two

Students will continue to explore Inkscape and learn the settings within the software that interface directly with the laser cutter. The instructor will revisit questions and information from the previous day & describe the specific goal of the challenge over the next three days.

Explore (cont.)

Essential Skill Focus: Goal Setting, Agility, Perseverance, Teamwork

Time: 30-50 minutes

Materials: Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (optional – computer mouse)


“The steps up until this point have allowed us to design the shape of our device. Now, we will learn how to ‘talk’ to the laser cutter by inputting the appropriate settings.”

Open saved student files from the previous day.

Help students follow the steps for directing the laser cutter to “cut” through the material and adding a vector logo to their devices:

Laser “Cut” Settings:

  • Object → Fill and Stroke
  • Fill: ⛝ – “no paint”
  • Stroke Paint: ⬛ – “flat paint”, R – 0, G – 0, B – 0, A – 255
  • Stroke Style: Width – 0.001, Units – “in”
  • Opacity: % = 100

Discuss the differences between a Bitmap and Vector image.

Add a vector logo:

  1. Select & Save a relevant, preferably creative commons image from the Internet
  2. Import Image: File → Import, “Image Rendering Mode” – Select “Smooth”
  3. Select the imported bitmap logo. It should appear as a
  4. Path → Trace Bitmap
  5. Check “Live Preview” Box
  6. Under Single scan: creates a path select one of the options (Brightness cutoff, Edge detection, Color quantization, Invert image) and increase or decrease the “Threshold” to your preference
  7. Click “OK” & close Trace Bitmap window
  8. Delete old image, or
  9. Position logo within your device outline

Explain (EDP: Develop Solutions & Select Solution)

Essential Skill Focus: Teamwork, Leadership, Agility, Goal Setting

Time: 10-20 minutes

Materials: Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (optional – computer mouse)


In groups of 2-4, allow students to recap their learning by sharing their answers to questions from the previous day (Day One, Explore).

Show students incomplete or incorrect versions of a design and ask students how they would correct the error.

Introduce the specific details of the challenge: “Develop a device that prevents your shoes from untying and is easily removed.”

Before Day 3, it’s a good idea to collect Inkscape or .svg files from students once they have saved their work either via USB flash drive or email. Once you have their files, prepare them for cutting on the laser cutter. During the next class, allow students to see the laser cutting process.

Day Three

Instructors will inform students about STEM Careers and the Wearable Device Designer career & Discuss with students how the laser cutter operates.

Extend/Elaborate (EDP: Prototype/Test)

Essential Skill Focus: Teamwork, Leadership

Time: 50-60 minutes

Materials: Projector, Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (optional – computer mouse), Laser cutter, Laser cutter materials (cardboard, wood, acrylic) Sketch paper, Pencils, Rulers


In groups of two – four, provide students with a list of STEM careers

  • Doctor, Medical Scientist, Data Analyst, Software Engineer, Webpage Designer, Financial Analyst, Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Industrial Engineer

Ask students to describe the roles of two or three of these careers.

“These careers or types of careers all exist within both the GE and Celtics organizations. Today, there are ways to join the NBA that don’t include playing basketball. If your dream is to join be a member of the Boston Celtics, these STEM Careers are one way to accomplish that goal. The challenges over the next few days are preparing us for a future career: Wearable Device Designer. A professional in this role will use vector softwares, like Inkscape, to design wearable devices to solve problems.”

“Inkscape works with the laser cutter because the vector images and shapes on our canvas direct the path of the laser. A laser is produced and focused using lenses and mirrors that can adjust to specific settings. These intricate optics allow us to burn through, etch, or engrave the material. Respectively, these options are Vector Cut, Vector Engrave, and Raster Engrave. For this project, we will vector cut out shapes and raster engrave the logos.”

As students finish their initial, or v1.0 devices, cut them out on the laser cutter.

Allow students to test out and wear their devices:

  • Does the device function as intended?
  • How does the device feel?
  • How long does it keep your shoelaces tied?

These devices will serve as a model students can expand upon when designing future devices. Allow students to create a method of testing their shoelaces consistently (ie. jumping with two feet until the laces become untied).

(EDP: Communicate/Redesign)

Students should evaluate the design of their devices with a partner:

  • Does the device keep your laces tied/prevent your shoe from falling off?
  • If not, why does it not work?
  • What improvements could be made to refine your device?

Reintroduce the challenge: “Develop a device that allows your shoes to stay tied and is easily removed.”

(EDP: Develop Solutions/Select Solution)

All devices should be designed with function first in mind. Once students know how the device will function, they can add aesthetic and design features.

Inform students that the remainder of this project is going to consist of partner/group work. Groups will work together to create an entirely new shoelace device design.

Students should work together to define criteria and constraints their device must follow:

  • Encourage students to list multiple, definitive constraints
  • (Using ruler) Devices should have a width (W) of about the width of the shoe tongue – See photo attached
  • (Using ruler) Devices should have a height (H) of about the distance between top two shoelace holes – See photo attached
  • Example: “1/16th inch < Size of the shoelace holes < 1/2 inch”

Instruct students to measure and sketch their initial designs and share them with a partner.

Partners will combine or choose the best ideas and design on Inkscape once both partners have a sketch of device v2.0.

Within Inkscape, students should all create their group’s device.

Instructors should be available while encouraging students to use each other as resources for possible questions.

Again, before Day 4, collect Inkscape or .svg files from students and prepare them for cutting on the laser cutter. During the next class, allow students to see the laser cutting process.


Day Four

Students will finalize, cut out, and test their v2.0 shoelace designs. They will assess their v2.0 shoelace designs with another group and reflect on the design process.

Extend/Elaborate (EDP: Prototype/Test)

Essential Skill Focus: Teamwork, Leadership, Agility

Time: 40-50 minutes

Materials: Projector, Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (optional – computer mouse), Laser cutter, Laser cutter materials (cardboard, wood, acrylic) Sketch paper, Pencils


Allow groups to work on their v2.0 designs. Students will finish at various times thus it is important to have an aide or instructor working on the laser cutter while another instructor is available to address student questions. It may be helpful to revisit certain steps of the design process, including the questions for “Test”, using the projector and computer at the front of the class.

Evaluate (EDP: Communicate)

Essential Skill Focus: Teamwork, Leadership, Networking, Agility

Time: 10-20 minutes

Materials: Finished devices v2.0, note paper, pencils


Once designs are cut, students should evaluate their designs

Pair groups with one another and allow them to assess each other’s designs:

  • What problems was the other group’s device trying to solve?
  • Why do you think theirs might work? Why might it not work? How can you tell?
  • How does their design inspire you?
  • What is one change that could make their design more effective?

After groups have answered questions about the other’s devices, allow them to assess their own designs:

  • In what ways did the other group’s construction inspire your modification/change?
  • How did you build on what already existed?
  • What problems did you encounter?
  • If you were to try and build a new solution to the problem, what did you learn here that would help make your next solution even better?

Instructors may decide to allow students to present their devices in the form of a gallery or fashion show.

At this point, students have completed two full iterations of the Engineering Design Process.


Students will design a 3D model of their 2D shoelace device using TinkerCAD.

Extend/Elaborate (EDP: Redesign)

Essential Skill Focus: Goal Setting, Agility, Leadership, Perseverance

Time: 60 minutes (if time permits)

Materials: TinkerCAD, 3D Printer(s) w/ filament, USBs (optional), Projector, Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (computer mouse – optional)


For students who have completed both the individual and group devices, you may encourage them to import their .svg design to a 3D CAD software called TinkerCAD. By visiting, students may see how an engineer would redesign this device given the added dimension of depth. NOTE: Students will need to create a TinkerCAD login and be over 13 y.o. to use without parental permission.

Additionally, you may want to show students the following video produced by GE Additive that quickly and effectively highlights “Additive Manufacturing”, the process used in 3D printing:

In this video, students will see example of GE Additive manufacturing, specifically clips of their nickel and cobalt metal 3D printing machines. To see more of this kind of content, visit

The conclusion of this process will result in 3D printed prototype of the design students created using Inkscape.


  • (MS-ETS1-1): Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • (MS-ETS1-2): Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • (MS-ETS1-3): Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • (MS-ETS1-4): Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
  • (Fab-Safety.1): I can safely conduct myself in a Fab Lab and observe operations under instructor guidance.
  • (Fab-Modeling.1): I can arrange and manipulate simple geometric elements, 2D shapes, and 3D solids using a variety of technologies.
  • (Fab-Fabrication.1): I can follow instructor guided steps that link a software to a machine to produce a simple physical artifact.
  • (Fab-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group under instructor guidance.

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  1. SCOPES-DF March 8, 2019
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