Wearable Device Designer – SCOPES-DF

Lesson Details

Age Ranges

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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


The teacher will guide students through the design and engineering process by supporting an environment that allows for trial and error, and celebrates iteration.

The series is designed for 6th – ­8th­ grade students in a class of 30 students or less, and up to 100 students per grade over a 2­-week period. This would allow for the mobile lab to engage approximately four different classes each day.

What You'll Need

Material List

  • Laser Cutter
  • 3D Printer
  • Computers
  • Software:
    • Inkscape
    • TinkCAD
  • Cardboard
  • Acrylic
  • “Invention Kits”
    • Paper Bag
    • Pipe cleaners/String
    • Straws
    • Cardboard/Notecard
    • Masking Tape/Aluminum Foil
    • Additional craft materials of your choice


Design Files attachment: Files to print

The Instructions

Step One: Session I Introduction to the Engineering Design Process through a rapid prototyping activity

Needs: “Invention Kits,” Computers, and Inkscape

Introduction and Warm­Up Activity: (~45 minutes)

Establishing the Activity (5 minutes)

  • Today we are going to start with a challenge. We will work in groups of 2­3 to find a solution together.”
  • Before starting with tools we will start with an engineering process activity.
  • Discuss key points of the engineering design process:
    • (Empathize) Identify, Research, Develop Solutions, Select Solution, Prototype, Test, Communicate, Redesign
    • Allow the students to come to this realization during the “Empathize” portion of the activity, but the goal will be to develop a device that allows one’s shoes to stay tied, and is easily

Empathize (3 minutes)

Identify (2 minutes)

  • Identify the problem together, as a group. Given the materials you have, discuss ways to construct a solution to this problem. (At this point, hand out the paper bag with the assortment of materials )

Research (1 minute)

  • Look through your “Invention Kits”. What materials do you have at your disposal? How could you use these materials to solve the “How” of your problem?

Develop Solutions (5 ­ 10 minutes)

  • Come up with as many ideas as possible to solve the defined problem. Use as many resources as you would like, ie. internet, peer, and talking to others. Sketch a design of your ideal solution.

Select Solutions (2 minutes)

  • Discuss with your group the design you sketched. Your group should decide which model you want to begin to prototype, or combine models, and continue with one design in mind.

Prototype (10 minutes)

  • Using materials (Cardboard, String, tape, and pipe cleaners) provided, your group has 10 minutes to construct something that will solve this problem.

Test, Communicate, Redesign (10 minutes)

  • With another group swap creations.
  • In your group ask the following questions about their creations:
    • What do you see?
    •  What do you notice?
    • What do you wonder? Why?

Next, still within your own group, discuss:

  • What problem was the other group trying to solve?
  • How did they use the materials to solve the problem? Did they use them in surprising or unexpected ways?
  • Why do you think it might work? Why might it not work? How can you tell?
  • How does their design inspire you? Using their design as a starting point, how could you make their design more effective at solving the problem?
  • Go to the other group’s construction. Share both problems. You have 5 minutes to make their construction more effective. Go!
    • DO build on the solution they came up with to the problem that they identified.
    • DO NOT simply add your solution to their construction.
  • After 5 minutes:
    • What did you learn from working on the other group’s project?
    • In what ways did the other group’s construction inspire your modification/change?
    • How did you build on what already existed?
    • Did your modification work to solve their problem? How can you tell?
    • What problems did you encounter?
    • Did you learn anything more about how the other group used their materials?

Return to your original construction. As a group, discuss:

  • How did the other group build on your design? What do you see / notice / wonder?
  • How does their modification increase the effectiveness of your solution?
  • What surprises you about what the other team added to your construction? What can you learn from their addition?
  • 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?
  • Thank the other group for their contribution to solving the problem you identified!

Inkscape Exploration: (10­15 minutes)

  • Now, it is time to explore the vector software we will be using: Inkscape.
  • Once they have opened a new Inkscape document, allow students play around with the tools and features.
  • As the instructor, be available but encourage kids to use each other as resources as they are building and exploring solutions to questions.
  • After about 10­15 minutes, ask them to close Inkscape and return to discussion.

At a minimum, provide students with 10­15 minutes of a student­centered investigation of this software. It is recommended to give students extra time to discover the various tools in Inkscape. At the beginning of the next class (Session II), you could begin by providing an additional exploration of the Inkscape. You may also want to encourage students to use this free software at home or on a personal computer with a guardian’s approval.

Closure: Reflection and Sharing (5 minutes)

The conversation will be centralized around the essential skills:

Point out the definition of agility.

Agility is the capacity to be adaptable and responsive to changing circumstances

  • Discuss the video from earlier about the basketball player, allowing for time to play without shoes:
    • https://youtu.be/2DxeSFEuh64
      • Talk about how they showed Agility in changing circumstances.

Turn to a neighbor to reflect on today, and answer points in which you may have experienced agility:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you notice?
  • What do you wonder? Why?
  • Would anyone like to share anything that stood out to them?
    • Teacher, point out what you saw.

If possible direct kids to moments where a sense of self, others, teamwork, and difficult conversations were seen.

  • Point out, “how these skills are important” when creating, and in these careers.
  • We will come back to where we left off, and continue creating our solutions at the next time we meet.

Step Two: Sessions II­V A summary and introduction to Inkscape.

Needs: Computers, and Inkscape

This lesson is designed as an introductory workshop to provide students with a basic understanding of Inkscape. The activity using this vector software will establish a set of skills students can apply to multiple Fab Lab machines including the laser cutter, 3D printer, and vinyl cutter. A series of brief Inkscape tutorial videos that cover all the concepts in this lesson can be found here:

Inkscape Basics:


Object Fill and Stroke Options:


Creating Vector Image from Bitmaps:



Session II:

Wearable Shoelace Device Outline

STEM Careers: Wearable Device Designer

Before students begin work on the computer, it’s important to preface the digital fabrication aspect of these lessons with an introduction into STEM Careers that exist today in 2018 and the career they will begin to explore: Wearable Device Designer.

Below is a list of STEM careers at GE (General Electric) that currently exist and/or are in high demand. These are all careers and job openings that exist today for GE but also major sports franchises like the Boston Celtics.

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

Ask your students if they have heard of any of these jobs. What does a person in this position do? What part of S.T.E.M. is utilized in each of these roles? You may even ask students what STEM careers are interesting to them?

It’s important students understand that while some may have aspirations of becoming a professional athlete, there are other careers that allow someone to make it into a sports league like the NBA without ever dribbling a basketball.

Once you’re ready to transition from this discussion, inform students that the focus of this lesson is the Wearable Device Designer career. This is a job that doesn’t currently have the same demand as the other career’s listed, please note GE describes this as “industrial job of the future”. Today, exists a gap between these STEM careers and people who have the skills to fulfill the roles necessary to do this work. The skills students will be learning over the next several days of the lesson will introduce them to abilities needed for the Wearable Device Designer career and other careers of the future.

Everyday in the life of a Wearable Device Designer

What tasks would you expect a Wearable Device Designer to accomplish during a typical work day?

Some additional careers related to the Wearable Device Designer are below:

Hardware Engineer
Research, design, develop, or test computer or computer­related equipment for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use. May supervise the manufacturing and installation of computer or computer­related equipment and components.

Artificial Intelligence Programmer
Conduct research into fundamental computer and information science as theorists, designers, or inventors. Develop solutions to problems in the field of computer hardware and software.

Software Engineer
Research, design, develop, and test operating systems­level software, compilers, and network distribution software for medical, industrial, military, communications, aerospace, business, scientific, and general computing applications. Set operational specifications and formulate and analyze software requirements. May design embedded systems software. Apply principles and techniques of computer science, engineering, and mathematical analysis.

Embedded Systems Engineer
Research, design, develop, test, or supervise the manufacturing and installation of electrical equipment, components, or systems for commercial, industrial, military, or scientific use.

Product Design Manager
Develop and design manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and children’s toys. Combine artistic talent with research on product use, marketing, and materials to create the most functional and appealing product design.

During a typical day, a Wearable Device Designer would use a vector software to create images or designs for a product. Vector softwares allow designers to create high quality objects without losing detail. In this lesson we will be using a vector software called “Inkscape”. This a free software that Fab Labs all over the world use when creating objects for laser cutting, vinyl cutting, and 3D printing. Today, we are going to begin exploring the Wearable Device Designer career by using Inkscape and learn the basics of this vector software. At the end of this curriculum, students will create multiple wearable designs that keep the wearer’s shoes tied.

Setting up your document

Open Inkscape

  1. File → Save As
    1. Save in Desktop
    3. Press Save
  2. File → Document Properties
    1. In General and Custom Size: Set units & display units to “in”
    2. In Custom Size: set Width to “24” & set Height to “12”
    3. A width of 24 inches and height of 12 inches is the size of many laser cutters. You may change these values based on the width and height of your equipment.
  3. View → Display Mode → Outline
  4. File → Save
    Rectangle Outline ­ Create, Select, and Resize
  5. Click and select “Rectangle & Square” tool from toolbar on left
  6. Create Rectangle by clicking and dragging to desired size
  7. Select the “Select and transform” tool from the toolbar on the left
  8. Click on the rectangle
    1. Set Width = 1.5 inches
    2. Set Height = 0.75 inchesInputting the width and height values will standardize the first design of the shoelace device to a 1.5 by 0.75 inch rectangle. Beginning in session IV, students can make theirs a different size and shape of their choice.Circle Lace Holes ­ Create, Select, and Resize

  9. Select “Circle & Ellipsis” tool from toolbar on left
  10. Create two circles, a distance apart and within the rectangle, by clicking and dragging to desired size
  11. Select each circle individually using the “Select” tool
    1. Set W = 0.25 inches
    2. Set H = 0.25 inches
      1. Repeat for the second circleSetting the width and height of the two circles to these values above allow the hole for the shoe laces have a diameter of 0.25 inches.Future Designs (FYl)
        You may also want to create a hole to fit an LED somewhere on your design. This extension, of adding electronics will be covered in future design units as part of a larger Wearable Device curriculum. To do so, create a 0.2 inch (~5mm) diameter circle in a corner or place of your choosing for your device.Laser Cutter ­ “Cut” Shape
  12. Select all objects (rectangle and two circles). Use one of the two methods below by selecting the Arrow tool (select and transform objects):
    1. Click in space outside of all objects, and hold mouse down to create a dashed selection box around all three objects
    2. Hold Shift and click on each of the three objects
  13. Object → Fill and Stroke
  14. Fill = ­ “no paint”
  15. Stroke Paint = ­ “flat color”
    1. R – 0
    2. G – 0
    3. B – 0
    4. A – 255
  16. Stroke Style:
    1. Width ­ 0.001
    2. Units ­ “in”
    3. Opacity:
      1. = 100%


  1. What does the “5” key do? What about the “4” or “3”?
    1. Pressing “5” centers the view on the outline of the canvas
    2.  Pressing “4” centers the view on an area of all created items
    3. Pressing “3” centers the view on the selected item
  2. What happens when I do View → Display Mode → Normal ?
    1. Changing the display to Normal allows you to view the infill of objects that have color and the appearance of an item’s finished product. Additionally it will make items that have a miniscule outline width seem invisible, such as the rectangle created earlier.
  3. What do the options under Object → Align and Distribute allow you to do?
    1. Align and Distribute allows you to orient objects in the exact order and place desired relative to an object of choice.
  4. When the outline, or rectangle, is selected what other commands are possible at the top of the screen?
    1. Commands such as rotate, flip, coordinate locations, locking aspect ratio, and changing units of measurement are some commands you can change.
  5. What happens when you change the number next to “X:” or “Y:”?
    1. Changing these numbers changes the X and Y coordinate of your object. The origin (0,0) is the bottom left corner of your canvas.

Goal: Share one new skill or feature you added to your shoelace technology with a partner.


Session III: Adding Logos

  1. What questions do you have from yesterday?
    1. What questions do you need to ask in order to be successful today?
      1. What do you need to know about your project that is unclear now?

Select & Save Image

  1. Open an Internet browser, preferably Google Chrome
  2. Search Google for logo that represents your “brand”
    1. It may help to add “logo” to the end of your search
    2. You may also want to add a filter to your search for copyright free images
      1. Within Google image search, under “usage rights”, select “free to use, share or modify, even commercially”.
  3. Click and drag your image to Desktop (or Right Click and select “Save Image as…” to the Desktop)
  4. Open Inkscape project (AIDAN SHOE.svg)

Importing Images

  1. File → Import
  2. “Image Rendering Mode” ­ Select “Smooth”

Create vector image

Note: In these next steps, students will take their imported photo (a bitmap file, or raster image) and trace it to create a vector image. A raster image is composed of pixels in static locations, while vector images are made of mathematical paths connected by lines or curves. A vector image is ideal when creating a logo due to its high quality and ability to edit without losing detail.

  1. Select bitmap logo or
  2. Path → Trace Bitmap
  3. Check “Live Preview” Box
  4. Under Single scan: creates a path select the following option that best fits your image
    1. Brightness cutoff
    2. Edge detection
    3. Color quantization
    4. Invert image
      1. Increase or decrease the “Threshold” to your preference
  5. Click “OK” & close Trace Bitmap window
  6. Delete old image, or
  7. Position logo within your device outline

It is highly recommended your logo fit inside the 1.5 by 0.75 inch rectangle outline of your shoelace device. This means your logo will be no larger than the perimeter of this device.


  • What does your shoelace technology include?
  • What techniques can you now apply? Ie. “I can now tell the laser cutter to cut!”

Goal: Share something you learned with a partner or someone who is asking for help.

Before Session IV, 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 and cut either before class or during to allow students to see the process.


Session IV: Group Collaboration

Inform students that the remainder of this project is going to consist of partner/group work. Collaborating and designing at this point in the design process involves a lot of improvisation. The ability to collaborate is both a practiced skill and essential for any career. It’s important to remind students it isn’t always easy to embrace an idea that wasn’t their own. A professional Wearable Device Designer would need to be able to incorporate ideas from other members of their team. In order to prepare students for this collaborative work, everyone can play the following improv game:

Improv/Design Game

Divide the class into groups, three to four works best. Students can remain seated.

“No, but…”

The first student, Person A, will make a suggestion to do something together with person B and C (and D). Person B and C will always begin their answers this round with “No, but…” and come up with a reason for not doing or modifying the activity:

A. Let’s go for a swim!
B. No, but we could go for a bike ride.
C. No, but we could fly a kite.

Next, B will make a suggestion to which C and A will respond starting with “No, but…”. Finally, C will make a suggestion while A and B come up with reasons for not doing or modifying the original activity.

“Yes, but…”

In the second part of the exercise, Person A makes a suggestion to do something together with person B and C. B answers “Yes, but…” and comes up with a reason for not doing the activity:

A. Let’s go for a swim!
B. Yes, but I don’t have my bathing suit.
C. Yeah, but only if the weather is nice.

Repeat with Person B and C.

“Yes, and…”

In the third part, Person A again makes a suggestion. This time, B answers with “Yes, and…” and adds to the activity. Person C, in turn, responds positively to the addition, and answers with “Yes, and…” and makes an extra suggestion to support the previous suggestions:

A. Should we go for a swim?
B. Yes, and let’s also go down the water slide.
C. Yes, and I’ll bring snacks!

Repeat with Person B and C.

Group questions:

How did each of these scenarios make you feel?

Have you encountered a time when you have felt this way, in group projects?

How do you think you could redirect a group member who says “no but” or “yes but”?

Do you think you can be more open to new ideas in projects and use “yes and”?

Students will now have an understanding for creating one type of shoelace device in a vector software (ideally they have tested this prototype if cut before class).

Develop Solutions

Before resuming their work on the computer, ask students to design another device by first sketching it out on paper. Encourage students to design a new device that not only looks different but also functions differently (i.e. multiple holes for weaving shoelaces). Additionally, ask if there are features of the previous shoelace technology they would like to change. Each student should have at least one new sketch before moving to the next step.

Size recommendations for new shoelace devices:


Device Body
Shoelace Holes

Width ≤ 2.0 inches
Width & Height ≤ 0.5 inches

Height ≤ 1.0 inches
Any holes should be at least 0.125 (1/8th) inches
away from edges of device

Select Solutions

Tell students they will choose one design from their group to create in Inkscape. This can be one design the group likes best or a combination of ideas into one design. With a partner (or group of three), ask students to share their designs. Each student should have a sketch of the device they selected before moving to the next step.


Within Inkscape, students should all create the selected device.

Be available and encourage students to use each other as resources as they are building and playing with solutions.


Session V: Tying it All Up

The final day of this project will consist of finalizing student’s designs, redesigns, and exploring future applications.

Test, Communicate, Redesign

Lab/Exploration/Play Time (40+ minutes)

Now it is time to play and complete your process

Be available and encourage kids to use each other as resources as they are building and playing with solutions.

Future applications (optional)
Designing 2D to 3D
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 www.tinkerCAD.com, students may see how an engineer would redesign this device in an added dimension or change their logo/image.

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 www.ge.com/additive.

Share Activity (10+ minutes)
Share with the group what you made, and your engineering process to getting there.


  • Note how each group of students moves through the design process.
  • Observe the steps they are taking, and how they are choosing to get there.
    • What does their process look like?
  • How many iterations have the gone through?
  • How are they each using empathy?
  • How are they each using skills of agility or grit?

Monitoring: (For teacher to record.)

  • Noticing: How well are the students: engaging, staying focused, and who is struggling?
  • What ideas came up in the discussion?
  • What are the most important points?
  • What are the connections each person is making?
  • What questions are being asked?
  • Is it clear that they visually understand the project?

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