Laser Cut Lantern - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

Lesson Details

Age Ranges

You need to login or register to bookmark/favorite this content.


Brian Tang
Brian Tang
Brian Tang is a Hong Kong-based social innovator, educator and lawyer. Brian is the founder of Young Makers & ChangeMakers (YMCM), an inclusive platform and community to foster young maker mindsets, STEAM education and 21st century skills; and to empower… Read More


Ethnic Chinese celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival worldwide by lighting lanterns. This lesson will introduce students, from all backgrounds, to this tradition and its associated folklore. Rather than purchasing mass-produced plastic lanterns, the lesson will update the tradition of handmade lanterns by teaching students how to make a digital fabricated version using a laser cutter. Students are encouraged to add their own personal and creative interpretations. At the same time, the lesson will emphasize sustainability values by using recycled cardboard material.

What You'll Need

Materials List

 Hot glue gun, LEDs, coin batteries, paper, pencil, marker, white-out/ correction tape, decorative materials (optional)
Recycled cardboard and MDF

Digital Fabrication Equipment Details

Laser cutter
Digital Camera

Vector graphics software (Inkspace)

The Instructions

Step One: Explore and Compare Two Chang E Legends

TEACHER NOTE: Before Class:

Review Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations estival

Review the Legend of Chang E

Review the two Versions of Legend of Chang E (Version 2 starts at the 6:10 mark)

Note that there is yet another and more beneficent version of the Chang E legend relating to her taking the elixir to prevent a thief from stealing it (see eg,


The Mid-Autumn Festival has been a celebration of the completion of harvest in traditional Chinese agrarian society since the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE). It should be recalled that the Chinese used the moon as the basis of their calendar, as opposed to the sun (which is the basis of the Gregorian/ Western calendar).

Ask students to look at pictures of the full moon and see if they can see an outline of a lady there, or maybe a rabbit:

These are associated with the Legend of Chang E and of the Jade Rabbit (which has analogies in many other Asian cultures: ).

Highlight how these legends pervade event until today, as can be seen by China’s space program naming its successive lunar landers Chang E and its lunar rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit): .

Essential Question: Do you know any other stories from other cultures about the moon? (see )

  1. Explain that there are several versions of Legend of Chang E
  2. Play two different versions of the Legend of Chang E for the class
  3. Instruct students to take a closer look at main characters in Legend of Chang E by taking characterization notes:
    • What do the main characters look like?
    • What do the main characters do?
    • What do the main character say?
    • What do others say about them?
  4. Have students share and compare their visualizations in small groups, discussing each character’s internal and external
  5. Introduce the concept of “compare and contrast” by explaining how the technique is used to identify similarities and differences.
  6. Comparison and Synthesis of Ideas (CSI).After closely analyzing the two versions of Legend of Chang E, students will compare and contrast ideas from each. They should be sure to list the specific words each version used. This strategy can also be used to help students recognize the thematic content that is common to both versions. Students should be able to generate both differences and similarities, as well as synthesize the information that each version shares.
  7. Expository Writing Prompt:
    Have students work with partners to write an expository paragraph that compares or contrasts the two versions and details about Hou Yi and Chang E. Include examples from different types of characterization, appearance, actions, words, and the reactions of others. Make sure students use:

    • Topic sentence
    • Supporting details and commentary
    • Transition words
    • Present tense verbs
    • Correct shifts in pronounsFormative Assessment: Examine students’ paragraphs to determine their levels of understanding. Check for structure, topic sentences, transitions, supporting details, and general commentary.TEACHER NOTE: Teachers could use guided writing to support students in the writing process. They could co-construct a “compare” paragraph — as a whole class or in small groups — and then have students write “contrast” paragraphs independently.
  8. Closure:

Students will summarize what they have learned. A group discussion or questions-and-answers written on the board will reinforce knowledge. Students can compare and contrast Mid-Autumn Festival traditions with their own holidays.

Step Two: Design & Build Your Own Laser Cut Lantern

TEACHER NOTE: Before Class:

Pre-cut the lanterns using the template to save time (recycled cardboard for body; MDF for handle). Potentially ask the students to gather their own recycled cardboard to be used. You may use a boxmaker utility (e.g. to generate work plans or to add extra complexity for more advanced students instead of using the lantern template if you wish.

Design Files:
   Lantern outlines.pdf
 Mooncake shaped lanterns.pdf
 Mid Autumn calligraphy and YMCM logo.pdf


Many of the traditional celebrations of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations continue today, including the lighting of lanterns and sharing of moon cakes (a traditional pastry). Also then highlight the environmental waste arisen from the use of disposable plastic materials, etc.:

Our concept of the sustainable and updated lantern (shaped like a moon cake) uses recycled cardboard, reusable LEDs and the opportunity for the kids to give their own interpretation of the story and tradition.

  1. Students design and draw their pictorial design to be cut into the lantern on paper using a pencil, then with a marker.
  2. Students learn to add “bridges” to their line drawings (the lack of which would result in an entire drawn outline being cut out). Bridges can be conveniently added using white-out/ correction
  3. Vectorizing the

First, the relevant drawing is digitized by taking a digital photo of it. Then upload the photo to a shared drive (eg, Google Drive, Dropbox), where a computer with a vector graphics software like Inkscape and/or Adobe Illustrator can access it. For Inkscape:

  • Open the JPG of the lantern drawing in Inkscape
  • Use “Trace Bitmap” to strengthen the line drawing
  • Use “Simplify” to simplify the line drawing
  • Save the drawing as a PDF
  • Upload the PDF to the shared drive again (eg, Google Drive, Dropbox)

4. Laser-cutting the lantern drawing

  • Test and calibrate the laser cutter (eg, power, speed, align height and material)
  • Open the PDF with the laser cutter software (for this lesson, Corel)
  • Set the area size to that of the proposed shaped lanterns
  • Highlight drawing to the lasercut and align to the center, then cut

5. Assembling and lighting the lantern

  • The lanterns will be kept together by folds/flaps and hot glued
  • Students may continue to design the exterior of the cardboard lantern by eg, painting, pen, colored drawings, or stickers. Cellophane can also be added on the interior for different colored light effects. These can also be laser-cut engravings on the lantern.
  • Before sealing the entire lantern in, students should affix the coin battery and choice of color of LED in the desired location. Some students will do more than one LED in different colors for different light effects showing their drawings. Students should affix the LEDs using clear tape for short-term use, and glue for longer term use. Switches can be added for further functionality and longer term use.
  • The hook is for the MDF handle to hoist the lantern in a horizontal position for your night out!

Our simple methodology can actually be used to design and make lanterns for other festivals, like Halloween; or other practical uses, like table lamps, and for use with different materials.

Lesson Feedback

One Response

  1. SCOPES-DF March 8, 2019
Load More