Laser Cut Lantern - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

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.


Common Core Social Studies Standards


Students will exercise intellectual skills to explore major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history. They will also gain a deeper understanding of culture and history from a broader perspective.

Key Idea 2.1:

  • The study of world history requires an understanding of world cultures and civilizations, including an analysis of important ideas, social and cultural values, beliefs, and values, beliefs, and traditions.
  • This lesson will also examine human conditions as well as connections, interactions, and perspectives of peoples across time and space.

Common Core Social Studies Unifying Theme: Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures

  • Role of diversity within and among cultures
  • Role of cultural beliefs and values (i.e. such as belief systems, religious faith, or political ideals) in affecting institutions, literature, music, and/or
  • Effect of ongoing cultural diffusion and change on different ideas and
  • Social Studies Thinking and Process Skills
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Identifying cause and effect
  • Drawing inferences and making conclusions
  • Evaluating
  • Distinguishing fact vs. opinion

Sequencing and Chronology Skills

  • Using the vocabulary of time and place
  • Placing events in chronological order
  • Sequencing events on a timeline
  • Creating timelines
  • Understanding concepts of time, continuity, and change

National Visual Arts Standards

  • NVA 1.4: Students use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner
  • NVA 2.3: Students use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas
  • NVA 3.2: Students select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning
  • NVA 1: Students know that the visual arts have both a history and specific relationships to various cultures

Common Core English Language Arts (I can statements)

I Can Statements for Reading Anchor Standards

Reading Anchor Standard 1

  • I can read closely to determine what the text says explicitly
  • I can support logical inferences from the text when writing or speaking
  • I can cite specific textual evidence to support conclusions

Reading Anchor Standard 6

  • I can assess how point of view shapes the content and style of a text
  • I can assess how purpose shapes the content and style of a text

Reading Anchor Standard 8

  • I can delineate and evaluate specific claims
  • I can delineate and evaluate the validity of the reasoning of the claim
  • I can delineate and evaluate the sufficiency of the evidence for the reasoning

Reading Anchor Standard 9

  • I can analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics to build knowledge
  • I can analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics to compare the authors’ approaches

Reading Anchor Standard 10

  • I can read and comprehend complex literary texts independently and proficiently
  • I can read and comprehend complex informational texts independently and proficiently

I Can Statements for Writing Anchor Standards

Writing Anchor Standard 3

  • I can write a narrative paper
  • I can develop a narrator and/or characters
  • I can develop a plot
  • I can use vocabulary and sensory language

Writing Anchor Standard 4

  • I can develop grade-level appropriate writing

Writing Anchor Standard 8

  • I can find information from print sources
  • I can find information from digital sources
  • I can decide if a source is credible

Writing Anchor Standard 9

  • I can use pieces from literary texts to support my writing
  • I can use pieces from informational text to support my writing

Writing Anchor Standard 10

  • I can write routinely for many reasons, purposes, and audiences

Digital Fabrication Competencies: I Can Statements

  • (S.2) Safety: I can operate equipment in a Fab Lab following safety
  • (DP.2) Design Process: I can design something in a Fab Lab using a specific process under close instructor
  • (DP.3) Design Process: I can create analog models (e.g. sketches, small physical models, ) to facilitate a design process.
  • (DP.5) Design Process: I can work with a group to follow multiple common design process steps (e.g. defining the user, brainstorming, prototyping, iterating, ).
  • (CAD.2) Computer Aided Design: I can draw a basic design using 2D Vector
  • (CAD.6) Computer Aided Design: I can design a 3D component using 2D design software (e.g. press-fit or folded components).
  • (MO.2) Machine Operation: I can safely operate a digital fabrication machine under close observation of an
  • (F.3) Fabrication: I can modify pre-designed components and subsequently fabricate the components using one digital fabrication

Lesson Feedback

One Response

  1. SCOPES-DF March 8, 2019
Load More