Set the (VR) Screen: Wearable Device Designer - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-ETS1-4, Fab-Safety.1, Fab-Modeling.1, Fab-Fabrication.1, Fab-Design.1

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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


Students are challenged over the course of five (5) lessons to develop a cardboard virtual reality headset. Working as a “company” or in groups, learners will fulfill job specific tasks to produce a headset and present their prototypes. Students will employ the Engineering Design Process throughout the five days of 5E model instruction. This lesson uses 2D vector design software and a laser cutter to produce student prototypes. This real world challenge also introduces students to a number of careers including Wearable Device Designer.

What You'll Need


  • Laser Cutter
  • Computers (one per pupil) w/ Internet access
  • Software: Inkscape
  • (Optional) Vinyl Cutter w/ vinyl for additional designs

Essential Materials:

  • Google Cardboard Template file (v1.0)
  • E-flute Cardboard (pizza box cardboard)
  • Biconvex Lens Set – 25mm Diameter 40mm Focal Length (two lenses per headset)
  • Clear tape or glue adhesive

Additional materials:

  • Rubber Bands – Size 14
  • Hook and Loop (Velcro) fasteners
  • Felt
  • Craft, wrapping, or origami paper
  • Suspenders (child)
  • Prefabricated VR Headsets


The Instructions

Day One

Students will be introduced to the concept of designing a VR headset by first identifying a need and/or problem. Students will begin ideating devices with their goals in mind and follow guided instruction using Inkscape to build the foundation of vector software skills.


Time: ~15 minutes

Materials: Projector, Computer, Laser Cutter, Cardboard, Example VR headsets, Paper, Pencil


(EDP: Identify)

Before class begins, ensure there are prefabricated VR cardboard headsets to show students as they enter. You may want examples cutting out on the laser cutter.

Organize students into groups of two – four. Their group will represent a new virtual reality (VR) company similar to “Oculus” or “PlaystationVR”. At the end of the week, students will pitch their company designed VR headsets to the class. In order to do this, everyone will have defined roles (assigned later).

Ask students, in their groups, “Why might someone not be able to attend a basketball game?” Or “Why might someone not be able to visit (a particular location)?” Have students list and share their responses.

Inform students that VR Headsets are immersive, head-mounted displays that allow individual to engage in a virtual environment. Simply put, they are devices that allow a person to feel like they are somewhere else or in the projected environment.

Share with students the following video of highlights from NBA games in VR:



Time: 30-50 minutes

Materials: Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (Computer mouse), VR Headsets, Unassembled/-folded Headsets (one per group), Paper, Pencil


(EDP: Research)

Pass out prefabricated or purchased VR headsets to students.

Using their phones, allow students ~10 minutes to test out VR apps or videos. Recommended apps include: “Cardboard”, “Street View”, “Expeditions”, “YouTube” – search for “VR” videos. You may also show the NBA video from earlier.

While they test the headsets, ask students to record their answers to the following questions:

  • In what ways is your headset functionally and aesthetically sufficient?
  • In what ways is it NOT functionally and aesthetically sufficient?
  • Overall how could it be improved to fit your needs?

Share results from student groups.

Digital fabrication can rapidly produce customized devices. As a class, you will begin exploring the 2D vector software “Inkscape” and laser cutting technology to create customizable headsets in groups.

Pass out computers. After opening Inkscape, allow students 5-10 minutes to do, make, and explore with limited or no guidance from the instructor.

While students explore, ask guiding questions including but not limited to the following:

  • How do I add a shape to my canvas?
  • When my shape is selected, what can I do to the shape?
  • What does the “5” key do? What about the “4” or “3” key? The “+” and “-” key?
  • What happens when I choose View → Display Mode → Outline?

Help students download or open the attached Google Cardboard .svg file (See attached “v1 Google Cardboard”).

Pass out unfolded, disassembled cardboard headsets to students.

Allow students 5 minutes to test out the proper assembly of the disassembled headset.

(EDP: Develop Solutions)

As groups begin to develop new headset ideas, ask students the following:

  • For whom or what audience is their headset intended? Ex. teenage gamers, primary school learners, professional athletes, med-school students, etc.
  • How will this audience use their headset? Ex. hands-free, sitting down, in classrooms, etc.
  • What designs will effectively inform their audience of their company brand? Ex. the company name in bold, logo on the front, different materials on the sides, etc.

Before students design on the computer, instruct students to individually sketch on paper at least two different ideas for the appearance and function of a prototype headset. Students should use notes from the earlier (Research) step to inform their new designs:

Appearance: add logos, text, or designs to headset exterior. Reminder: the laser cutter does not add color. Instead it removes a top layer of cardboard material. Color may be changed with additional materials in future versions of the headset.

Function: Add or remove cuts, install felt materials on nose or eye holes, connect straps or suspenders to headset to wear on head without hands.

Direct students to begin designing their sketches within Inkscape during the remaining class time. Ensure students save their work.

Day Two

Students will continue to explore Inkscape and learn the settings within the software that interface directly with the laser cutter. Students will also Develop and Select a Solution for their VR headset v1.0.


Time: 30-50 minutes

Materials: Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (optional – computer mouse)


(EDP: Develop Solution)

Open saved student files from yesterday.

Inform students today they will learn the process of adding logos, images, and designs to their headsets. Discuss the differences between a Bitmap and Vector image.

Allow students to add a design or logo to their VR headset:

  • Select & Save a relevant, preferably creative commons image from the Internet
  • Import Image: File → Import, “Image Rendering Mode” – Select “Smooth”
  • View → Display Mode → Outline

Create a vector image:

  • Select bitmap logo or
  • Path → Trace Bitmap
  • Check “Live Preview” Box
  • Under Single scan: creates a path select one of the options (Brightness cutoff, Edge detection, Color quantization, Invert image) and increase or decrease the “Threshold” to your preference
  • Click “OK” & close Trace Bitmap window
  • Delete old image, or
  • Position logo within your headset outline

Using the pictured diagram, inform students the best locations for logos, text, or designs are highlighted in green. Note: certain designs will need to be rotated or adjusted to view properly when wearing the headset. See example design later in this document.

Once students have placed their logos on their design, guide them through inputting the settings needed to inform the laser cutter to “cut” through the material. One way to practice this skill is to select all blue lines and change their settings to the following:

  • Object → Fill and Stroke
  • Fill = ⛝ – “no paint”
  • Stroke Paint = ⬛ – “flat paint” & “R” – 0, “G” – 0, “B” – 0, “A” – 255
  • Stroke Style: Width – 0.001, Units – “in”
  • Opacity % = 100

For red lines, repeat only Stroke Style: Width – 0.001”.

Once completed, change View settings to Outline (View → Display Mode → Outline).

Note: Changing the lines from blue to black allows students to apply Vector Cut settings (described later) to their design for laser cutting. It is also possible to achieve similar results by changing the speed and power of the laser within a “Color Mapping” feature of the print settings.

(EDP: Select Solution)

Allow students to share their previously sketched and/or newly created Inkscape designs within groups. After sharing (5-10 minutes), groups should either combine ideas into one headset design by incorporating aspects of each member’s designs or agree on one member’s design to create. The selected design will serve as prototype v1.0 for their company.

When creating the selected solution, remind students the following:

  • For whom or what audience is their headset intended?
  • How will this audience use their headset?
  • What designs will effectively inform their audience of their company brand?

Direct students to sketch the design of the combined or selected prototype for their own records.

Save and collect Inkscape or .svg files from students and prepare them for cutting on the laser cutter. During the next class, allow students to see the laser cutting process.

Day Three

Inform students about STEM Careers and how the laser cutter operates. Students will also be divided into roles within their groups to create their VR headset v2.0.


Time: 10-20 minutes

Materials: Projector, Computer


In groups of two – four, provide students with a list of STEM careers. Provided are the following: Doctor, Medical Scientist, Data Analyst, Software Engineer, Webpage Designer, Financial Analyst, Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Industrial Engineer

Ask students to describe the roles of two or three of these careers.

These careers or types of careers all exist within both the GE and Celtics organizations. Today, there are ways to join the NBA that don’t include playing basketball. If your dream is to be a member of the Boston Celtics, these STEM Careers are one way to accomplish that goal. The challenges over the next few days are preparing us for a future career: Wearable Device Designer. A professional in this role will use vector software, like Inkscape, to design wearable devices to solve problems.

Inkscape works with the laser cutter because the vector images and shapes on our canvas direct the path of the laser. A laser is produced and focused using lenses and mirrors that can adjust to specific settings. These intricate optics allow us to burn through, etch, or engrave the material. Respectively, these options are Vector Cut, Vector Engrave, and Raster Engrave. For this project, we will vector cut out shapes and raster engrave the logos.



Time: 40-50 minutes

Materials: Projector, Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (optional – computer mouse), Laser cutter, Laser cutter materials (cardboard, wood, acrylic) Sketch paper, Pencils


(EDP: Prototype)

Cut out v1.0 headsets on the laser cutter. Allow students to assemble their devices.

(EDP: Test)

Ask students the following questions to evaluate VR headset v1.0:

  • How does the device look?
  • Does the device function as intended?
  • How does the device feel?

(EDP: Communicate/Redesign)

Direct students to evaluate their devices with a partner group. Without giving any information, students ask partner groups the following:

  • For whom do you believe this headset is intended?
  • How would you imagine this type of person or audience using the headset?
  • Is the brand of the company visible or obvious in some way?
  • What improvements could be made to refine this group’s device?

Gather the class and reintroduce the challenge: “Develop a VR headset that appears and functions uniquely for a specific target audience.”

In student groups, allow students to select which of the following roles they would like to fill for the remainder of this project. Groups of 2 or 4+ may have multiple students on a role or vice versa.

(EDP: Develop Solutions/Select Solution)

All devices should be designed with function first in mind. Once students know how the device will function, they can add aesthetic and design features.

Allow students to define the criteria and constraints their device must follow. Encourage students to list multiple, definitive constraints. These will serve as core aesthetic & functional components to the company headset. Ex. Headset v2.0 must be scaled down for students in 1st through 5th grade, Headset v2.0 must be hands free, & Headset v2.0 must have a logo that is visible from 5 feet away.

Instruct students to sketch their v2.0 designs and share them with their groups.

Direct students to combine or choose the best ideas to design v2.0 in Inkscape.

Divide group tasks based on student’s roles:

Fabrication Coordinator – will design headset v2.0 in Inkscape

Material Manager – will acquire and prepare all materials for headset v2.0

Communications Expert – will document work from up to v2.0 in a chosen media format, ex. Google Slides, Photograph, Video, Audio Podcast.

Again, before Day 4, collect and prepare student’s Inkscape or .svg files for the laser cutter.

Day 4

Students will finalize, cut out, and test their v2.0 headset designs. Students will also use the remainder of the day to prepare for their final presentation.


Time: 40-50 minutes

Materials: Projector, Computer (one per student), Inkscape software (optional – computer mouse), Laser cutter, Laser cutter materials (cardboard, wood, acrylic) Sketch paper, Pencils


(EDP: Prototype)

Allow groups to work on their v2.0 designs and presentation. As groups get started, gather students in groups by their role in three separate meetings to set their expectations for the day:

Communications Experts:

  • Share out of the media format and documentation/presentation
  • Reminder of role as primary presenter on the project’s final day
  • Today’s goals: presentations should include documentation of initial concepts, v1.0, revised concept, (final) v2.0 headset, and future plans.

Fabrication Coordinators:

  • Share out of designs in Inkscape
  • Reminder of role as lead designer and go-to for questions around headset specifications
  • Today’s goals: finalize all functional design changes. Headsets should include company logo and one or more functional change.

Material Managers:

  • Share out of aesthetic and material additions to headset.
  • Reminder of role as brand leader and preparer of additional materials
  • Today’s goals: ensure added materials (cardstock, vinyl stickers, wood, copper tape, head straps, etc.) are selected and added to the headset.

Students will finish at various times thus it is important to have an aide or instructor working on the laser cutter while another addresses student questions. It may be helpful to revisit certain design elements within Inkscape using the projector and computer at the front of the class.



Quick Summary:

Time: 10-20 minutes

Materials: Finished devices v2.0, note paper, pencils


(EDP: Test)

Once designs are cut and assembled, students should evaluate their designs.

  • How does the device look?
  • Does the device function as intended?
  • How does the device feel?

If time permits, allow students to create a method of testing their v2.0 designs. Ex. Students create questionnaires or 1-5 scale responses to ask classmates, similar to a focus group, around their responses to the headset. They ask, “On a scale of 1-5, how likely would you be to wear the current version of this headset?”

(EDP: Communicate)

Pair groups with one another and allow them to assess each other’s designs. Students should ask the following questions in addition to their previously created question(s):

  • What problems was the other group’s device trying to solve?
  • Why do you think theirs might work? Why might it not work? How can you tell?
  • How does their design inspire you?
  • What is one change that could make their design more effective?

After groups have answered questions about the other’s devices, allow them to assess their own designs:

  • In what ways did the other group’s construction inspire your modification/change?
  • How did you build on what already existed?
  • What problems did you encounter?
  • 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?

Allow students to record or implement the feedback to their headsets. Responses to previous questions should be documented by Communications Experts.

Students should save their designs and finalize their headsets in preparation of their presentation.

Day Five

Students will share their company VR headset and receive feedback from their peers. Students may also use additional digital fabrication techniques to redesign their headsets.


Time: 60 minutes

Materials: Finished devices v2.0, note paper, pencils, rubrics – for evaluation


(EDP: Communicate)

On the final day of the lesson unit, or the “Pitch Day”, allow students to share their group designed headsets with the class. Students should record feedback on their designs for future implementation. Some models of the Pitch Day are as follows:


Multimedia Presentation (Full class period)

Student groups, or “companies”, which have documented their process are given the platform to share their headsets in the media format they selected. The Communications Expert may have recorded a video, photo journal, podcast, or formal presentation thus the instructor should ensure the proper setup is available. This open-ended approach should be accompanied by an instructor-created rubric to ensure students meet expectations despite varying presentations.


“Shark Tank” Pitch (Full class period)

Students: Groups will need to calculate the total cost of materials used to assemble their headsets, then set a price they are hoping to sell (lead by the Material Manager). Ex. the total cost of materials was $7.00 and students want to sell their headset for $12.00 at a profit of $5.00/headset. Additionally, students will want to pair with the Investor that best aligns with their audience. Ex. a student company’s headset made for watching NBA games would want to sell to the Sports or Gaming Shark. Students “win” by making the most possible profit and by pairing with the intended Shark without sacrificing functional or aesthetic components core to their company.

Shark Tank Sharks: Assemble a group of teachers or older students to form a panel of “Sharks”. Beforehand, each Shark is given $10.00 x (# of student companies). Sharks should decide the type of industry they supposedly represent, or the types of ideas they are looking for in a presentation. Ex. the Shark representing Medical Equipment wants headsets designed with medicine or professional training in mind. The investors will listen and ask questions as students present their headsets. They may haggle with students or ask them to remove certain functional/aesthetic pieces to drive down the cost. Sharks “win” by spending the least amount of money and acquiring the most headsets.


Blind Bidding Auction (Half of a class period)

The goal of this method is to make the most profit while acquiring headsets. Similar to the Shark Tank style, students need to calculate the cost to assemble their headset. Students will keep this value a secret and place their headset along with the rest of groups up for “auction”. Students will start with $10 x ((# of student companies)/2) to bid on other company’s headsets Companies cannot bid on their own headset and they may not bid if they run out of money. The teacher will give one vague hint about the cost of another group’s headset to each group. Ex. “there is a headset intended for gaming that costs $13.00”.

One at a time, the instructor will present a headset and start the bidding below the actual cost. Increase the bid by $1.00 each time until only one bidder remains. Reveal the actual cost of the headset and award the headset to the company that bid the most. The amount paid for the headset is subtracted by the top bidding group, and 50% of the bid is added to the owners of the headset. Ex. Group 1 bids $14.00 on a headset from Group 2, which carries a cost/value of $12.00. Group 1 gives the instructor $14.00 and the instructor gives Group 2 $7.00 to spend on future bids.

The winning group will have the most money and value remaining at the end of the period. Ex. Group 1 has $3.00 remaining after two headsets each valued at $12.00 bringing their total company value to $27.00.


Elevator Pitch (Quarter of a class period)

Student companies are given one or two minutes to succinctly describe their company’s headset. The challenge with this presentation style is to make students think critically about the essential features and talking points of their VR headset. This format also encourages questions and feedback from the class after their pitch presentation.



(EDP: Redesign)

Once all groups have presented their headsets and if additional time permits, here are new ways to add digital fabrication components to the headset.

Changing the Material

Instead of using E-flute Cardboard, students could try using other types of card

board (A,B,C, or F). The original template design will need to be changed when using other types of cardboard. Additionally, students could try using various paper products like cardstock or even wood.

Vinyl Cutting

Custom designed stickers of logos could be applied to the exterior of the headset. This could replace the laser etched logos that may exist and thus may add to the durability of the headset if material isn’t removed but rather added. Using Inkscape, students could similarly design their logos and cut them out using a vinyl cutter.

Additional Electronics

The addition of electronics could add a variety of benefits to student’s headsets. The headset itself could alert patrons wearing the device if they are moving too fast and may lose balance, By implementing electronics such as an accelerometer and an actuator.

3D Printing

Creating fasteners, frames, or an entirely new viewer out of 3D printed material is another way for students to take this project a step further. Certain aspects of the headset could be stabilized or fixed using 3D printed parts. For students looking for a challenge, they could 3D print a headset.



  • (MS-ETS1-1): Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • (MS-ETS1-2): Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • (MS-ETS1-3): Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • (MS-ETS1-4): Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
  • (Fab-Safety.1): I can safely conduct myself in a Fab Lab and observe operations 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-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group under instructor guidance.

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