Lesson Details

Age Ranges
4-PS3-2, HSG.MG.A1, HSG.MG.A3, 7.G.B6, 6.G.A3, Fab-Safety.1, Fab-Design.1, Fab-Modeling.1, Fab-Fabrication.1, Fab-Electronics.1
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Ainsley Buckner
Ainsley Buckner
Fablab manager
Ainsley Buckner graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2011 with a B.F.A in General Fine Arts, concentration in Sculpture and Print Making. She is currently the Prototyping Manager at Sears think[box] of Case Western Reserve University. think[box] is… Read More


Students will create a neck piece based on symmetry, patterns, and colors seen in Black Panther as well as in traditional African art. They will learn how to simulate cultural and visual information to create their own symbolic neck piece.

Students will be more aware of how visual symbols, color, and patterns are used in past and present social cultures and how they influence our personal identities. Students will develop skills and familiarity with makerspace equipment to instill confidence in their ability to express themselves as creative problem solvers and makers as well as to minimize any level of intimidation they might have in utilizing advanced technical machines and software.

What You'll Need

Key Vocabulary

  • Adinkra – visual symbols that represent concepts or aphorisms. Adinkra are used extensively in fabrics and pottery among the Ashantis of Ashanti Kingdom and Baoulés of Cote d’Ivoire. They are incorporated into walls and other architectural features.
  • Additive Manufacturing – the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer. An example of this is 3D printing.
  • Tolerance – an allowable amount of variation of a specified quantity, especially in the dimensions of a machine or part.
  • 3D Modeling – is the process of developing a mathematical representation of any surface of an object (either inanimate or living) in three dimensions.
  • Laser Cutting – a technology that uses a laser to cut materials. It works by directing the output of a high-power laser through optics to burn through a material.
  • LED – A light-emitting diode (LED) is a semiconductor device that emits visible light when an electric current passes through it.
  • Electrical Polarity – There are two types of poles: positive (+) and negative (-). This represents the electrical potential at the ends of a circuit.
  • Waterjet Cutter – is an industrial tool capable of cutting a wide variety of materials using a very high-pressure jet of water, or a mixture of water and an abrasive substance.
  • Abrasive – is a material, often a mineral, that is used to shape or finish a workpiece through rubbing. For example, sandpaper or nail files usually are made using abrasives.
  • Embossing – to carve or stamp a design on a surface so that it stands out in relief.

Materials List

  • [QTY 40] 5MM Purple LEDs (DigiKey 67-2064-ND)
  • [QTY 100] 3V Coin Cell Battery (Powertron 2032 – This is a 100 pack so QTY 1 pack needed)
  • [QTY 3] Aluminum Sheets, ⅛” x 12” x 12” (6061 Alloy Aluminum)
  • [QTY 1] Waxed Cotton Cord, 2mm x 100 yards (2mm x 109 Yards Jewelry Rope)
  • [QTY 2] Plywood Sheets, ¼” x 12” x 24” (DND Baltic Birch Plywood)
  • [QTY 4] Electrical Tape Rolls (Scotch Super33 – This is a 2 pack so QTY 2 packs needed)
  • [QTY 10] Cubic Inches 3D Printing Plastic (In House)
  • [QTY 20] Black markers (ex: sharpie)
  • [QTY 50] Sheets of printer paper for printing templates

Digital Fabrication Equipment

  • Laser Cutter (design works with most brands)
  • Flatbed Scanner
  • 3D Printer
  • Waterjet Cutter (design made with OMAX but other brands will work as well)
  • Scissors
  • Metal Letter Stamps
  • Hammers
  • Computer with Connection to Internet
  • TinkerCAD
  • Corel Draw

The Instructions

Lesson Objectives

Essential Questions

  • What can visual symbols, color, and pattern tell us about a culture or society?
  • What influences creative expression and identity?
  • How do the arts shape, as well as reflect, a culture?
  • What do effective problem solvers do when they get stuck?

Strategies for Student Engagement and Voice

The students will be divided into small groups working at stations. The groups will rotate to the different stations to help keep students focused and engaged.

The students will have voice and choice in choosing the shape of their amulet, the color of their beads, the selection of charms, and the pattern of their assembled neck piece. Their decisions will be based off what they want their neck piece to represent based on cultural symbols and colors.

Plan for Student Reflection

Students will share the symbolism behind their neck pieces at the end of the program.

Then they will answer the following questions:

  • What is something new you learned?
  • What is something that surprised you?
  • What is something you would like to learn more about?

Potential Questions for Post Qualitative Assessment

  • Does symbolism used in advertisement affect your opinion of the product being presented?
  • Advertising is a form of communication intended to convey a message, what message are you conveying in how you represent yourself to society?
  • Would you like to come back to a maker space? Why?


ACTIVITY STATION BREAKDOWN We will organize the students into three groups of six-seven (assuming 20 students, but can adjust as needed) and work with them through three 30 minute stations. Each station has adult supervision that is determined by the age of the students and size of the groups.

Adapted from the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) inclusive teaching resources, students will be introduced to the Pride Piece activity by first exploring the topics of history, culture, and social identity. Using an adapted version of LSA’s social identity wheel. See here:

This introduction exercise has 3 main components; an opening discussion with guiding questions, completion of the social identity exercise, and a closing discussion correlating the introduction activity with the purpose for making their artifact (Pride Piece) using multimedia and artifacts.

The guiding questions for the opening discussion are below and is facilitated:

  • What do we know about the movie Black Panther? The comic books? Movie soundtrack?
  • What are some major themes about the film/story?
  • What are social identities? How are they formed?

The instructions for completing the social identity wheel bag exercise are below:

  • Review the materials you have for this exercise. Each student will have a brown paper bag, 3 adhesive labels, an index card, and marker. 
  • Students will write your name on your brown paper bag.
  • Students will turn over the social identity worksheet and read the boxes on the wheel.
  • Write 3 that you would use to describe your social identity onto the labels and place them on your brown paper bag. Share what you checked and why.
  • Have additional discussion about social identity using these questions. Where do we think social identities come from? What social identifies were represented in the film? Which social identities did you relate to?
  • The multimedia clip and suggestions for tangible artifacts for the closing discussion are below:
  • Let’s listen to Ruth Carter, the costume designer talk about how social identities were represented in the movie. See clip here:
  • Highlight the big themes and discuss some of the vocabulary and interesting facts that Ruth shares her scene notes clip. This includes the Adinkra symbol on Suri’s shirt, the role of makeup and tattooing the colors and materials used in the film like red, black, green, purple, gold/
  • Reference any tangible artifacts that you have brought into the space. This may include African art, cloth, currency, or jewelry.

Share with students that they will now have the opportunity to make an artifact of their own in the lab that reflects social identity. Discuss T’chala’s pendant from the movie. Ask, what do they think was his superhero crest and why? When you make today you will follow an algorithm but you will also use your own interest, and social identity to create something that represents you, and your history and culture. When you complete your Pride Piece,think about, what new social identities can we construct for the future in a place like Wakanda? Then add it to your social identity wheel bag by writing it on the index card and placing it inside your brown paper bag.

STATION 1: 3D Printed Beads

Preparation: Make TinkerCAD accounts for students 3D print at minimum 4 beads per student (choose filament colors that will be discussed). Station Objective: Introduce students to 3D modeling software and additive manufacturing process.

Brief Description of Activities:

  • Teacher shows students the example cylinder bead.
  • Introduce TinkerCAD and have each student login in on one of the premade accounts.
  • Take students through the steps listed in (BlackPantherBead-TinkerCADTutorial) to create their cylinder bead.
  • During tutorial ask students:
  • What is 3D Modeling? (Talk about x, y, and z axis while showing students them in TinkerCAD program. Explain how parameters are required to determine the position of an element (i.e., point). This is the informal meaning of the term dimension.)
  • Explain what diameter means
  • How do we know what size to make the diameter? (Introduce the word tolerance and talk about how the hole has to be big enough to fit the string.)
  • Teacher demonstrates how to import and setup stl file into 3D printing software.
  • Scale
  • Orientation
  • Resolution (layer height)
  • Speed
  • Teacher demonstrates how to set up 3D printer.
  • Select material
  • Check bed surface/leveling
  • Load filament
  • Teacher starts demo print.
  • Explain to students that there will not be time for them to print each of their own beads and that we have pre printed beads in the colors discussed earlier in the symbolism discussion that they can pick from.

Reflection Ideas:

How does scale and proportion influence the design of product?


[QTY 10] Cubic Inches 3D Printing Plastic (In House)

Activity Files:


STATION 2: Laser Cut Light-up Amulet

*Note: This station requires a teacher and an assistant. Preparation: Make an example amulet. Station Objective: Make personalized laser-cut wooden amulet based on African symbols.

Brief Description of Activities:

During demo, teacher will emphasize the following guidelines:

  • The green lines in the template are only reference guides and will not be laser cut, while the red lines signify shapes that will be laser cut. Reference Image shown below.


  • Students designs must stay with in the green box.
  • Designs must be one continuous shape that fully encloses all red and green reference circles. If the students lines overlap or touch the reference circles their design will not work because it will interfere with either where the battery is going or where the holes for the string and LED are placed.
  • Go over do’s and don’ts by drawing an example that will work and drawing an example that will not work. Ask students why the amulet you drew will or will not work.
  • Reference:



  • Students must draw outlines with a black marker (ex: sharpie). No shading or filling in shapes. (For this lesson we have decided to only allow laser cutting and not allow laser etching due to time constraints)
  • All shapes must be closed shapes.


  • Pass out two BlackPantherAmulet-PaperTemplate to each student.
  • Students will draw their amulet designs. They may draw several shapes, but only one can be laser cut so instruct students to put a star by the design they would like cut.
  • Collect students’ drawings.
  • Teacher demonstrates setting up file in Corel Draw.
  • Explain how the laser interprets different line weights.
  • hairline outline = cut line
  • outlines thicker than hairline = etched
  • Explain how to set the printer driver settings for laser cutting.
  • Setting speed, power, and frequency correctly based on your laser cutter and material
  • Teacher will send file to the laser cutter, demonstrate focusing the laser and start the laser job for the students to watch.
  • While the teacher is giving the Corel demo/Laser cutter demo the assistant will scan in each students’ drawing and convert the scans into vector lines, and then add those vector lines to the BlackPantherAmulet-LaserCutterTemplate. They will set up this file to have all the students designs on one piece of material (if more time is allotted students could individually do this process).
  • Teacher explains that the assistant is setting up their files and they will be able to watch theirs cut after they finish the LED demonstration.
  • Teacher will introduce adding the LED to the amulet.
  • Ask students what LED stands for (go over definition and parts of an LED).
  • Ask students if they know the difference between the two leads (explain electrical polarity).
  • Explain the longer lead is called an anode, and that gets connected to the positive side of the battery, while the shorter lead is called a cathode, and that gets connected to the negative side of the battery.
  • Pass out one LED and one battery to each student and instruct them to try and light the the LED with the battery based on their understanding of the electrical polarity. Once all the students have figured the correct orientation of their battery to the LED review completing a circuit.
  • Teacher demonstrates taping the LED to the battery (explain how electrical tape is an insulator while taping).
  • Students tape the LED to their battery.
  • Teacher demonstrates attaching battery and LED to the amulet using electrical tape.
  • Guide students to be aware of the sizing of the tape pieces they are using and to be careful of the tape placement if they do not want it to show on the front side.
  • While the teacher is giving the LED demonstration the assistant will start the laser cut job with the students amulet designs. If the job is done being laser cut before LED demonstration the assistant will bring the amulets over to the area where they are working on taping the LEDs. If the job has not finished the teacher will bring the students over to the laser cutter to finish watching their designs cut.
  • Students will tape their LED and battery to the laser cut amulet with electrical tape.
  • Students will take their amulets with them, remind them not to lose them on the way.

Reflection Ideas:

What visual metaphors can be drawn from the symbol you chose to be your amulet?

Are there any cultural references portrayed by your symbol?

Supplies (for 20 students):

[QTY 2] Plywood Sheets, ¼” x 12” x 24” (DND Baltic Birch Plywood)

[QTY 40] 5MM Purple LEDs (DigiKey 67-2064-ND)

[QTY 100] 3V Coin Cell Battery (Powertron 2032) – This is a 100 pack so QTY 1 pack needed)

[QTY 4] Electrical Tape Rolls (Scotch Super 33) – This is a 4 pack so QTY 2 pack needed)

[QTY 50] Printed templates: BlackPantherAmulet-PaperTemplate

[QTY 20] Black markers (ex: sharpies)

Activity Files:

Black Panther Amulet – PDF Paper Template

Black Panther Amulet – CDR Laser Cutter Template

Black Panther Amulet – PDF Will Work & Will Not Work Template

Black Panther Amulet – PDF Will Work & Will Not Work Template 2

STATION 3: Water-jet Cut Metal Charms

Preparation: Prepare suitable scrap metal for practicing stamping From ⅛” thick 6061 Aluminum, waterjet and debur 4 of each charm for each student, plus spares, using the BlackPantherMetalCharms-WaterjetTemplate-OMAX-CAM.ORD file. Station Objective: Introduce students to abrasive waterjet cutting and metal letter stamping.

Available charm shapes:

Brief Description of Activities:

  • Teacher provides an overview of proper apparel for metal shops
  • Mention closed toed shoes, pants, short-sleeve shirts, no drawstrings or jewelry, and tied up hair, and explains why these things keep you safe.
  • At a minimum, have students put on safety glasses.
  • Teacher demonstrates waterjet cutting of a few aluminum charms.
  • Explain what a waterjet cutter is and how it works.
  • Show students the charm that will be cut out.
  • Show students the computer file that the machine will use to cut.
  • Run the machine to cut a few charms and then lower the water level so the students can see that the charms were cut.
  • Teacher demonstrates metal letter stamping.
  • Explain how to hold the metal stamp so that the head of the stamp is flush with the metal disc.
  • Explain that the hammer strike should be swung with medium pressure to come in contact with the top of the stamp.
  • If they hit the stamp too lightly they can strike it again as long as the stamp has not been moved.
  • Note: Larger and more detailed metal stamps require a harder strike than smaller and less detailed stamps.
  • Let students feel the relief lettering and explain embossing.
  • Students will practice letter stamping on scrap metal.
  • Students will each pick four charms from the pre-made collection and then stamp each charm.
  • Students will take their charms with them (provide a bag), remind them not to lose them on the way.

Reflection Ideas:

What is proper apparel in a metal shop and why?

What is a waterjet cutter and how does it work?

How do you emboss a design on a surface or object?

Supplies (for 20 students):

[QTY 3] Aluminum Sheets, ⅛” x 12” x 12” (6061 Alloy Aluminum)

[QTY 1] Metal Letter Stamp Set

[QTY 10] Hammers

[QTY 10] Safety Glasses

[QTY 30] Plastic bags big enough to hold 4 charms

Scrap Metal

Activity Files:

BlackPantherMetalCharms-WaterjetTemplate.cdr (original CorelDRAW file)

BlackPantherMetalCharms-WaterjetTemplate-PreCAM.dxf (for use on non-OMAX machines)

CONCLUSION: Neck Piece Assembly & Discussion

Preparation: Pre Cut waxed cotton to 36” length. Station Objective: Students will complete final neckpiece assembly and share their ideas with peers.

Brief Description of Activities:

  • Teacher demonstrates how to assemble neck piece.
  • First thread the amulet and position it to be on the center of the string.
  • Make a knot on both the left and right side of the amulet (if knots are not added the charms and beads will lay too close to the amulet and be hidden).
  • Then add a charm or bead to both the left and right sides.
  • Continue to add a bead or charm to each side until all of their charms and beads have been added.
  • During the demonstration make sure to vocalize the thought processes and ideas behind the pattern you are making. Also emphasize that the string can easily become frayed and you are careful to guide the string through the holes without rubbing the end of the string on the edges of the holes.
  • Pass out waxed cotton string to each student.
  • Pass out cups of different colored beads and instruct each student to take 4 to 6.
  • Students assemble neckpieces.
  • Ask students to each share their answers to the following questions:
  • What is something new you learned?
  • What is something that surprised you?
  • What is something you would like to learn more about?
  • What does the neck piece represent to them?

Reflection Ideas:

What was the intent behind the pattern you assembled?

Does the overall design of your neck piece represent your original idea?


[QTY 1] Waxed Cotton Cord, 2mm x 100 yards (2mm x 109 Yards Jewelry Rope)


  • (4-PS3-2): Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
  • (HSG.MG.A1): Use geometric shapes, their measures, and their properties to describe objects (e.g., modeling a tree trunk or a human torso as a cylinder).*
  • (HSG.MG.A3): Apply geometric methods to solve design problems (e.g., designing an object or structure to satisfy physical constraints or minimize cost; working with typographic grid systems based on ratios).*
  • (7.G.B6): Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, volume and surface area of two- and three-dimensional objects composed of triangles, quadrilaterals, polygons, cubes, and right prisms.
  • (6.G.A3): Draw polygons in the coordinate plane given coordinates for the vertices; use coordinates to find the length of a side joining points with the same first coordinate or the same second coordinate. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.
  • (Fab-Safety.1): I can safely conduct myself in a Fab Lab and observe operations under instructor guidance.
  • (Fab-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group 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-Electronics.1): I can follow instructions to build a simple electrical circuit using conductive material, basic components, and power.

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  1. SCOPES-DF March 8, 2019
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