DIY Adinkra Symbols with 3D Printing – SCOPES-DF

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
Fab-Modeling.1, Fab-Fabrication.1

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Sarah Wallace
Sarah Wallace
Fablab manager
I run the Cleveland Mobile Fab Lab of MC2 STEM High School.   I work with K-8 teachers in the Cleveland Metro School District to expose young learners to the wonders of Digital Fabrication through fun, artistic, STEM projects.    Previously,… Read More


Students create custom Adinkra symbols using a variety of different methods including low-tech art supplies and digital fabrication machines including a 3D printer and vinyl cutter.

After completing the ELA lesson for Adinkra symbols students will complete a series of activities for them to create their own symbols using simple art supplies as well as Digital Fabrication tools. Students will design and model their symbols using the 3D modeling program, Tinkercad as well as, with help from their teacher, create their own 2D symbol to be made into a sticker.

The goal is for students to make connections from an ELA lesson to a STEM activity through 3D and/or 2D

modeling and fabrication.

What You'll Need


The Instructions

STEP 1: Intro to Adinkra Symbols, 3D Printing and Tinkercad

Before the project, read about the “History of the Adinkra Symbols”

This lesson assumes that both the teacher and students are relatively familiar with 3D printing, 3D printers and Tinkercad. If this is the first 3D printing and Tinkercad lesson your class has ever done, please visit the Tinkercad tutorials website here: The Fab Foundation has developed a Fab Lab Safety Handbook with detailed guidelines on many of the safety concerns within Fab Labs. It is available at this link:

STEP 2: Draw an existing Adinkra Symbol

Have students looks through the list of Adinkra Symbols and choose one that has a personal meaning for them.

Using graph paper have students draw their symbol so that it is approximately 3in x 3in with thick strokes. See the example Adinkra image in the gallery above.

STEP 3: Create a personal Adinkra Symbol

Have your students complete the “What are your Core Values” worksheet that can be found at the end of this document. Use this worksheet to help your students identify their top 3 personal core values. Have them write them on a sheet of paper as seen below.

Next, students should look at the list of existing Adinkra symbols to find the symbol that most closely matches their top 3 core values and sketch them (just a quick sketch is fine) beneath each word.

Finally, students should create their own Adinkra symbol that is inspired by their 3 core values. Depending on your students’ abilities you can push them to be more creative in their design, or to attempt to incorporate at least one element from each of the original symbols. Have each student come up with AT LEAST 3 possible symbols before conversing with their peers to receive feedback and making improvements before finally choosing their favorite as their final symbol.


Create a fine art version of your symbol Students can create their symbol in a variety of fine art mediums.

  • Paint their symbols on paper, or Rock Art.
  • Draw their symbol on card stock, punch a hole in it and wear it as an emblem.
  • Draw their symbols on clear plastic film with permanent maker to make a sun-catcher.
  • Sculpt their symbol from clay to be painted when dried or glazed and fired.


STEP 5: Digitize your symbol with 3D Modeling

Students should create their personal symbol in Tinkercad using the basic shapes tools. For most students who have a basic level of understanding of Tinkercad this can be done in 1 hour. Keeping with the approximately 3in x 3in design, Tinkercad designs should also be this approximate size and

less than 1 inch thick (75mm x 75mm x 25mm).

After students complete their design, a gallery walk is a great way to get peer feedback and improve designs. Keeping the design process in mind it i important that we remind our students that no design is perfect the first time and to utilize peer and instructor feedback to improve their designs.

OPTIONAL: Have students turn their symbol into an emblem that can be worn by adding a loop or putting the symbol on a background with a small hole in it so that string or ribbon can be added.

STEP 6: Printing the Symbols

NOTE: Some teachers choose to do most of the ‘back end’ printing behind the scenes while others have students complete the printing process. This is completely up to you as a teacher and your students ability level.

  1. Download the STL of the tinkercad file.
  2. Upload the STL to the slicer program for your 3D printer.
  3. Set the settings to your liking (infill, layer height, etc).
  4. Export your file as a GCODE (some printers require an SD card for this, others are wireless or use a
  5. USB cord).
  6. Print your file!


STEP 7: Creating a 2D file of the Personalized Symbols

There are three ways to create a 2D file of your symbols using Corel Draw, depending on student ability level you can choose which is best for your class.

Using Tinkercad:

The simple way to create a 2D digital file of your custom symbol is to

Download the file as an SVG from tinkercad and open it in Corel

Draw. This will only work if all parts of the design are touching the

workplane in tinkercad. You can play with your design by lowing parts

of your design with the black raise arrow above a selected shape.

Using Corel Draw Only: (or other cutting software:)

A great way to introduce your students to Corel draw is to have students import the image of their symbol

and then use the coreldraw drawing tools to trace their image to create a vector file. This can be done with

the drawing tool, or by using the shapes tool and combining them and then using the segment delete tool to

erase the overlapping lines.

STEP 8: Using the 2D Files

Now that you have 2D vector files of your symbols they can cut and pasted into RStudio to be sent to the Roland Vinyl Cutter to make small personal stickers, iron on decals or shirts or stencils for screen printing or spray painting. The Corel file can also be used for laser cutting: engrave your symbol on a piece of wood or acrylic to make an emblem, or make them tiny for a charm bracelet.

Extensions and Connections

Have your students come up with a class set of values and make digitize the Adinkra symbols for those values. Students could vote on the ‘student of the week’ for each value and could wear the emblem or pin and earn special privileges.

Have your students create a symbol using TanGrams and find the complex area of their symbol. Have them create 2 very different visual symbols with the same area.


  • (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.

Lesson Feedback

One Response

  1. Daniel Smithwick October 23, 2018
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