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TryEngineering Today!

TryEngineering Today! is dedicated to providing the latest news and information for students, parents, teachers, and counselors interested in engineering, computing technology and related topics.

These macaroons laser-engraved with wintertime illustrations make a delicious addition to the holiday season.
December 10, 2018 | Sponsored

By Jennifer D. Bosavage


With more and more youngsters becoming fans of cooking shows, from “Chopped Junior” to “Cupcake Wars,” it stands to reason that high schools are expanding their course offerings of baking and cooking classes. These classes not only teach students the basics of cooking, but they also expose them to the intricacies of food design. As a result, high schools might find a natural home for laser cutters within their family and consumer science curriculum, or what was formerly known as home economics. 
The laser is a uniquely qualified tool for students interested in learning techniques to create dishes with an impressive presentation. Lasers are excellent for marking, and this can include laser-etching branding, logos or other information onto food. Laser cutting and engraving food is a highly detailed and controlled burning process, so the student or instructor must closely monitor speed and power. Many different foods are suited for use with this technology, from more traditional tastes to the esoteric. Here are just a few examples:
A 75 W Epilog Fusion laser can engrave a pie using the following recommended settings: 100% power, 30% speed, 300 dpi, Jarvis dithering, engraver just slightly out of focus and auto-focus turned off. 
Cookies can also be embellished with the laser -- for best results, a layout sheet should be created to ensure that the images will be centered within the cookies. 
Often used as the basis for personalized party favors, chocolate bars present another unique “canvas” for laser engraving.   
Personalized pancakes, anyone? After your cakes are cooked, you can use the laser to etch a design or logo can on top!  
A laser-cut pattern on sushi rolls offers a unique take on eating raw fish. The repetitive pattern should fit the seaweed wrap or nori, and be proportionate to the size of the rolls. Power should be set on low with standard speed to mitigate the risk of fire or charring. Placing a piece of paper above or below the nori will also protect the sushi wrap from laser overexposure. An added bonus to laser-engraved sushi is that less adventurous eaters may be tempted to sample an unfamiliar food because they have played a role in preparing it.
Students already may be familiar with a practice known as natural branding, as it is becoming increasingly popular in the organic food sector, replacing stickers. Direct laser labeling is a contact-free process, so it has no impact on the quality, taste or shelf life of food. The method is also efficient and toxin-free. Fun classroom adaptations of this industry trend could include emblazoning pickles with student names, or apples with the high school monogram.
Whether they are used for practical or fanciful purposes, lasers are becoming a tool that may soon be as common in a high school family and consumer science kitchen as a bread knife — albeit one with greatly increased functionality. The possibilities are endless.

This content was provided by Epilog Laser. In business since 1988, Epilog Laser has worked hard to become the leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. We are innovators. We are problem solvers. We are committed to designing and manufacturing the highest-quality laser systems, right here in our Golden, CO headquarters. Read More

Laser engraving cork coasters is a school-friendly project that is both simple and functional. Source: Epilog Laser
November 20, 2018 | Sponsored

By Jennifer Bosavage

Laser cutters are an invaluable tool in secondary schools, affording students a wide range of experiences from expressing creativity to learning a trade. The equipment is appealing to students as it enables them to produce professional-quality items while also being easy to use.

Here are seven projects that students will enjoy making as they simultaneously learn valuable skills.

The beauty of these projects is that each can incorporate other areas of the high school curriculum. Puzzles can depict historical maps, for example; quotes from literature can be engraved onto bookmarks; chemical element symbols can be turned into jewelry.

Today's makerspaces in schools and libraries expose students to new technologies while also learning skills that can help prepare them for their future. What's done for fun today might just be part of a vocation tomorrow.

  1. Puzzles: Lasers can both cut and engrave. Students can take a favorite piece of artwork or a personal drawing and engrave it onto a thin piece of plywood, perhaps one-eighth of an inch thick. They can then use their engraving as a jigsaw template to cut out the pieces of a puzzle. Several free, ready-made templates are also available online.
  2. Cutting boards: Kids can make engraved cutting boards as gifts or for themselves, and they also make great additions to the school's cooking classroom. Tape can mask areas to keep over-burn and ash dust off of the non-engraved portions. Tip: Choose lighter, unstreaked wood to start; it develops a dark and deep burn when etched, providing well-defined marks for optimal visibility.
  3. Cork coasters: Cork is lightweight, rot-resistant and even fire-resistant in its natural state. It is also impermeable, soft, buoyant and durable. Using a laser to engrave patterns such as star constellations, mathematical symbols or chemical models can reinforce subject matter addressed in other classes. Lasers engrave cork with excellent contrast.
  4. Jewelry: Laser-cut wooden or acrylic earrings and necklace pendants are exceptionally popular when it comes to creating custom jewelry for all kinds of occasions. Using a metal-marking component, lasers can also engrave metal pendants, watch backs and more.
  5. Clocks: Clocks possess great sentimental value. As gifts, they have traditionally served to recognize years of service. Clocks are a bit more complicated to make than puzzles, but they are far from impossible. Drawing programs such as Corel Draw or Adobe Photoshop can be used to create artwork; clock face vector images are readily available online. Mini quartz hardware can be purchased at nearly any craft supply store, and is easy to add after engraving is complete.
  6. Bamboo bookmarks: Yes, students still read books. Bookmarks are a practical, everyday item. Bamboo is a popular bookmark material, as is cherry, although any hardwood will work. Leather is also a popular material for this application. Laser-cut bookmarks are generally thin – about one-eighth of an inch or less -- and can be monogramed or engraved with a pattern.
  7. High school graduation décor and fundraisers: Items etched with a class graduation year can make fun centerpieces at proms or commencement ceremonies. Many senior classes also sell customized gear or products for fundraising. If students use the laser to create these items, they can keep more of the funds raised.

This content was provided by Epilog Laser. In business since 1988, Epilog Laser has worked hard to become the leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. We are innovators. We are problem solvers. We are committed to designing and manufacturing the highest-quality laser systems, right here in our Golden, CO headquarters. Read More

November 13, 2018 |


Science Olympiad: Circuit Lab

IEEE is a proud sponsor of the CIRCUIT LAB event for the 2019 Science Olympiad.  If your team is preparing for the Circuit Lab event, check out the resources below to learn more about circuits.  We also have some great information on engineering majors, activities & opportunities, and games that will help you learn more about engineering.



Hands on Activities

  • LEDs and Resistors
    This lesson explores LEDs and resistors and reviews the differences between parallel and series circuit design and functions.

  • Sketching Circuits
    This lesson introduces students to the new technique of drawing electrical pathways for circuitry with pens.

  • The Phone Charger Conundrum
    Lesson focuses on how technical standards are developed and demonstrates how standards enable products to work together.

  • The Power of Graphene
    Lesson focuses on graphene and its electrical properties and applications. Students learn about nanotechnology and how engineers can harness the differences in how materials behave when small to address challenges in many industries.

  • Arduino Blink Challenge
    Lesson explores computer programming and the impact of computers on society. Students build and test a program to turn a light on and off using an Arduino board. They connect the hardware, program the code, test their system, adapt it for variations in blinking times, evaluate their results, and share observations with their class.

  • Using Ohm’s Law to Build a Voltage Divide
    Students will design, build, and characterize one of the basic circuits of electrical engineering, the voltage divider. These circuits produce a wide range of output voltages and are building blocks for more complex circuits. Circuit design will emphasize the concepts of Ohm’s Law and students will explore mathematical relationships of parallel and series resistors. Students will demonstrate their design efforts by building prototype circuits and using test measurement tools to confirm their predictions.

  • History of Computing - Engineered Memory
    Lesson focuses on the engineering behind storage devices, and engineering improvements over time. Though exploring the operation of the "floppy" disk, students explore the mechanics underlying operation, and then test the disk under a variety of conditions.

  • Insulators and Conductors
    Demonstrating the concept of conducting or insulating electricity. Note: This lesson plan is designed for classroom use only, with supervision by a teacher familiar with electrical and electronic concepts.

  • Get Connected With Ohm's Law
    Demonstrate Ohm's Law using digital multi-meters. Fun hands-on activities are presented that demonstrate Ohm's Law. Teachers use digital multi-meters to collect data that are plotted to show that voltage and current are related by linear functions for ordinary resistors and by power functions for light bulbs.

  • Two Button Buzzer Circuit
    Demonstrate how two switches interact in an electrical circuit such as that used to sound a buzzer. Note: This lesson plan is designed for classroom use only, with supervision by a teacher familiar with electrical and electronic concepts.

  • Flashlights and Batteries
    Lesson focuses on the concept of electron flow through the demonstration of electrical circuits in a flashlight, and how batteries operate.

  • Electric Messages: Then and Now
    Lesson focuses on exploring electric message systems, from light signals using International Morse Code to text messaging. Students construct a simple telegraph using a battery, wires, a switch, and bulb, and explore the impact of communications on society.

  • Electric Switches
    Demonstrate how electric circuits can be controlled with a simple switch. Note: This lesson plan is designed for classroom use only, with supervision by a teacher familiar with electrical and electronic concepts.

  • Series and Parallel Circuits
    Demonstrate and discuss simple circuits and the differences between parallel and serial circuit design and functions. Note: This lesson plan is designed for classroom use only, with supervision by a teacher familiar with electrical and electronic concepts.

  • Here Comes the Sun
    Lesson focuses on solar panel design, and its application in the standard calculator. It explores how both solar panels and calculators operate and explores simple circuits using solar power.


Engineering Resources


  • Engineering Majors
    Engineer are inventors and problem solvers of the world.  More than twenty-five major specialties are recognized in the field of engineering. How will you change the world?  You can also search for universities with engineering programs throughout the world here: http://tryengineering.org/university.  


  • Engineering Activities & Opportunities
    Learn about engineering opportunites for pre-university, undergraduate, and graduate students
    all over the world. Find listings ranging from engineering summer camps and competitions to
    internsipsand research positions.



If you love STEM and have an interest in learning more about the field of engineering. Join us
for an exciting two-week, on-campus engineering summer camp for high school students held
at three universities across the US in 2019. TRYEngineering Summer Institure









Young woman with notebook
November 7, 2018 | Diversity, Rural Students, STEM

Students at Nedrose High School in rural North Dakota have been asking for years for the opportunity to take more rigorous coursework. But there are simply no funds available for the school to hire a full-time advanced placement (AP) teacher.

Fortunately, Nedrose High recently became one of 13 high schools in the state to take part in the Blended College Readiness Program this year. The program allows students to attend online classes that are traditionally more available at larger high schools. NMSI hopes to use the program as a model for expanding to other states.

The program, available to 100 students through the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) partnership, is offered free to any high school in the state that requests it. It provides online AP classes in calculus, biology, statistics and English. Nedrose sophomore Megan Sutter and senior Mindee Boyce are both participating in the program, taking AP biology. Sutter says she likes the class because it lets students work at their own pace. Boyce, who hopes to pursue a career in agronomy, signed up for the course as soon as she heard it was available.

Thanks to funding from the North Dakota State Legislature, each North Dakota high school student can take one AP exam free of charge, or up to four exams free if the student is from a low income family. Students who pass an AP exam have the opportunity to earn college credit, saving money on future college tuition. Students who complete the courses and earn a 3 or higher on each course’s AP exam will also receive a $100 award from the NMSI.

Sixteen other North Dakota high schools take part in the College Readiness Program, with AP classes taught by a teacher in person.

Superintendent of public instruction Kirstin Baesler says, “It is more difficult for our rural North Dakota schools to offer advanced classes, particularly in math and science. This helps to close our ‘opportunity gap,’ and expand the academic options available for our rural students”

Author: Lynda Bradley


November 1, 2018 | STEM, Diversity, Girls

In the United States, only 27 percent of all students taking the AP computer science exam are female and just 18 percent of college computer science degrees go to women.

A new report titled Girls, STEM and Careers: Decoding Girls’ Futures in an Age of Social Media shows that what drives girls’ lack of representation in these fields is their waning confidence in science, technology, engineering and math as they get older. The report is based on a survey of more than 10,000 girls in the United States conducted by Ohio-based nonprofit Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX).

The report reveals a deeper understanding of behaviors, thoughts and perceptions of a national sample of girls in grades 5-12. Findings include these startling insights:

  • While girls’ interest in pursuing a career in math and/or science increases 16% from fifth to ninth grade, there’s a 15% decline in their perceived abilities in these subjects.
  • One in three girls believes that boys are encouraged more than girls in the areas of math and science.
  • 73% of girls believe they are good at math and/or science, but among Hispanic girls that number declines to less than half, and for Asian girls to only 56%.

The mission of ROX is to create generations of confident girls who can control their own relationships, experiences and decisions. In an article in the Cincinnati Business Courier, Dr. Lisa Hinkelman, ROX Founder and Executive Director and principal researcher of The Girls’ Index, said, “When fifty percent of high school girls report that they are considering a career in a math and/or science field, we celebrate this as a sign that the national efforts to increase girls’ interest in the STEM fields is having a positive impact. However, when nearly the same percentage of girls do not believe they are smart enough for their dream job, we recognize that we need to augment our efforts to support girls personally and academically."

Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, chimed in on the report findings during an International Day of the Girl celebration at the company’s Mountain View, California, offices this year, saying, “The revelations contained in this research study effectively reframe the conversation and highlight the opportunities ahead as we empower the next generation of women leaders to take their seat at the table. In a world where an understanding of STEM is quickly becoming table stakes, building confidence and capability in girls that their contributions measure up and matter is critical to their individual and our collective success. At Intuit, we have benefited greatly from talented women leading our company at every level, from the board room to our front lines, and we are champions of the important work that Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX) is driving to increase the pipeline of interested and capable girls in pursuit of their dreams.”

The full Girls, STEM and Careers impact report is available here.

Author: Lynda Bradley

Figure 1. Laser cutting makes elegant and complex fashion designs easy and beautiful. Source: Solarbotics/CC BY 2.0
October 15, 2018 | Sponsored

By Jennifer D. Bosavage

With the ability to create intricate cutwork to enhance the décolletage of a gown, or scalloped lace edges that flatter the hemline of a sundress, laser cutters are rapidly becoming more popular in the realm of fashion design. They help designers bring their most creative work to life, thanks to their ability to effortlessly and precisely cut a pattern or engrave directly on to fabrics. Laser cutting is both extremely accurate and fast — important features for designers wanting to incorporate fine detail onto a variety of fabrics. Speed is also a plus in a fashion design classroom, where students may be simultaneously working on creating multiple projects.

Students will likely be interested in understanding how the laser process works, and why it doesn't pull or stretch fabric the way cutting blades can. There are several advantages to fabric laser cutting.

  • A very fine and powerful V-shaped beam of light is projected onto a tiny area in order to make the cut.
  • The intensified 0.004 in beam cuts without pressure — there is no mechanical contact — so fabric isn't distorted.
  • An intensified vacuum force is automatically applied to the area being cut to prevent the material from shifting.
  • Cuts are made quickly and accurately, so edges are sharp and clean.
  • The laser heat seals, or cauterizes, the edges of the cuts; this protects them from fraying or raveling. (One caveat: the laser’s sealing action can be a disadvantage for cutting multiple pieces or plies at once, as it may fuse edges together.)

Many types of natural and synthetic materials can be cut or engraved with lasers, which affords more creative choice for designers. Possibilities include cotton, denim, felt, fleece, leather, linen, polyester and silk; specialty materials such as stretch fabrics and Gore-Tex are also well-suited for laser use.

Designers such as Alexander McQueen and Zac Posen, as well as brands like Marchesa, have used laser technology to create dramatic effects. Studying their work can serve as foundation for a fashion design curriculum that is highly inspiring.

Given all these factors, it’s easy to see how the laser’s presence in a fashion design classroom can greatly enhance a student’s ability to turn his or her inspired ideas into reality. 

This content was provided by Epilog Laser. In business since 1988, Epilog Laser has worked hard to become the leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. We are innovators. We are problem solvers. We are committed to designing and manufacturing the highest-quality laser systems, right here in our Golden, CO headquarters. Read More

Figure 1: The Epilog Zing Starter Series offers excellent entry-level laser cutters.  Source: Epilog Laser
October 4, 2018 | Sponsored

By Jennifer D. Bosavage

The start of the school year is the perfect time for anyone considering a laser cutter to learn the foundations of this exciting technology.

Just as they are in makerspaces and fab labs, laser cutters are one of the most versatile tools one can have in a  classroom. They can cut patterns or pieces for final assembly; they can cut through a range of materials with high precision; and they are easy to use. All of those qualities rolled into one piece of technology make the laser cutter a very powerful piece of equipment -- and a great investment for schools, businesses and entrepreneurs alike. When first starting out, here are a few tips to bear in mind:

  1. Select your materials carefully.
A laser cutter uses a laser beam that is fired to allow any shape or design to be cut out of a flat piece of material; possibilities include plastic, wood, fabric, leather and more. Lasers are able to penetrate hard and thick materials that traditional drag-knife devices, such as craft cutters and vinyl cutters, cannot. There are, however, some materials that are not recommended for use with a laser -- such as anything containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This material is not only very messy to engrave or cut on a laser, but can also release a corrosive gas that is harmful to both the inner workings of the laser system and the laser operator. If you’re ever unsure whether a material includes PVC as one of its components, you can request a material safety data sheet (MSDS) from the manufacturer.  Most other materials are laser compatible, but flare-ups can occasionally happen, especially when cutting acrylics. That’s why it’s of paramount importance never to leave the laser unattended.
  2. Take safety seriously. While even elementary schoolchildren can use laser cutters when properly supervised, it’s important to remember that these are tools, not toys. Filtration systems are needed, because the fumes and dust caused by etching can be toxic. Fire extinguishers are also recommended to combat flare-ups. Epilog recommends a Halotron fire extinguisher or a multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher. Of these two options, the Halotron extinguisher is more expensive option, but offers advantages such as the discharge of a clean, easily removable substance that is not harmful to the mechanics or wiring of the laser system. The dry chemical extinguisher, by contrast, discharges a sticky, corrosive powder that can be very difficult to clean up.
  3. Create a plan to guide your equipment choices. Having a solid understanding of your needs and a business purpose outline will allow you not only to create a great budget proposal for buying or leasing a laser cutter -- it will also guide you in selecting the best model. System cost is determined by factors such as motor type (stepper or servo); engraving table size; and laser wattage, which ranges from 30 watts to 120 watts. An entry-level cutter might have an engraving bed measuring 16 in x 12 in, which could be ideal for a classroom or startup; a new, entry-level 30 watt system costs less than $8,000. An enterprise-size business, by contrast, may need machinery on the opposite side of the spectrum -- with features such as a 40 in x 28 in engraving bed, 120 watts of power and a price tag closer to $42,000.

There is no question that a laser cutter can be an invaluable tool for growing a business or expanding a school curriculum, opening new markets and providing insight into a potential career path. Laser systems can help companies and schools alike blaze new pathways to success.

Contact Epilog Laser for more information on their laser products.

This content was provided by Epilog Laser. In business since 1988, Epilog Laser has worked hard to become the leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. We are innovators. We are problem solvers. We are committed to designing and manufacturing the highest-quality laser systems, right here in our Golden, CO headquarters. Read More.

July 24, 2018 | Sponsored

Jennifer Bosavage

Middle school teachers who are fortunate enough to have laser cutting machinery at their disposal are faced with figuring out how to incorporate the technology into meaningful lessons. Far beyond personalized engraved trinkets, laser systems can teach children skills that will benefit them in high school (and beyond), including organization and preparation. In addition, laser cutters let young adolescents use creativity while learning science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).

The best way to kick off a unit study is with a fun, hands-on activity. Hands-on activities promote a love of learning and connect abstract concepts to the real world. The following are some lesson plan ideas for middle school teachers wanting to incorporate hands-on learning through laser cutting into their curricula.

Social Studies

Objective: Learn about different cultures through their folk art. Paper cutting is a popular art form for many cultures. For example, in China, paper cutting expresses moral principles, philosophies and aesthetic ideals. In Switzerland, the art of Scherenschnitt (which translates to "scissor cuts" in German) tells stories in silhouette; early designs featured landscapes of cows, goats and herdsmen moving the animals up to the mountain pastures and back. Polish papercutting, called Wycinanki, was traditionally done using sheep shears because they were often the only cutting instruments available.

Objective: Understand and apply the Pythagorean theorem. (This lesson meets Common Core Standards for Geometry.) Students can have fun with geometry by reviewing some of the elaborate wooden marquetry work done on old floors. The laser can cut these geometric shapes in wood veneers, to be assembled and glued into a tile that has practical value as a trivet, and students use the Pythagorean theorem to measure, cut and fit together the triangular pieces.


Objective: Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events or character types from myths or traditional stories. (This lesson meets Common Core Standards for Literature.) Laser cutters can be used to create all types of costumes, allowing students to “dress the part” when reading plays or novels aloud in class. Acting out in this way helps the text come alive. For instance, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” could be enhanced with the addition of a laser-cut bird costume.

Earth Science

Objective: Students learn a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments. (This lesson meets Common Core Standards for Science.) Laser cutters are ideal for making puzzles. Here, students engrave the seven steps of the scientific method on individual puzzle pieces that they’ve cut to fit together only when assembled properly.  

Engineering Science

Objective: Demonstrate simple engineering principles by building model bridges. Students can cut arches, trusses, brackets and other parts, and measure the load-bearing characteristics while learning about building prototypes. Models of various bridge types are cut by scanning diagrams and tracing them. A contest will determine which student or team model can bear the most weight before collapsing.

Using hands-on instruction, educators foster the 21st century skills that students need to be successful: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Hands-on learning helps students retain information and allows them to feel the satisfaction of creation. Laser cutters help reinforce mathematical principles in every project created regardless of discipline. The happy byproduct is leaving students with a tangible sense of accomplishment.

Content sponsored by Epilog Laser: https://www.epiloglaser.com/gs-try-engineering/

This content was provided by Epilog Laser. In business since 1988, Epilog Laser has worked hard to become the leader in the laser engraving, cutting and marking industry. We are innovators. We are problem solvers. We are committed to designing and manufacturing the highest-quality laser systems, right here in our Golden, CO headquarters. Read More.

December 14, 2018 |

This document presents the Federal Government’s five-year strategic plan for STEM education, based on a vision for a future where all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment. The plan accordingly strengthens the Federal commitment to equity and diversity, to evidence-based practice, and to engagement with the national STEM community through a nationwide collaboration with learners, families, educators, communities, and employers. Beyond guiding Federal activities and investments, it is intended to serve as a “North Star” for the broader community to help achieve the goals, pathways, and objectives within this plan.  Download the entire document:  Charting the Course for Success: America's Strategy for STEM Education

AIBO: Robot Dog
October 25, 2018 |

IEEE launched Robots.ieee.org, a new website that aims to be the world's best and largest catalog of robots. Billed as "your guide to the world of robotics," the site gathers nearly 200 robots from 18 countries and shows them off in thousands of photos, videos, and interactive animations.

Robots include, for example, consumer favorite Roomba, which vacuums floors and lightens housekeeping chores; Paro, a robotic baby harp seal used as a therapeutic tool in hospitals and nursing homes; and Atlas, an agile bipedal robot that can run, jump, and even do backflips.

"One of the things that makes the site really unique are the interactives that let you move and spin robots on the screen," said Spectrum photo director Randi Klett, who leads the project along with Erico. "We send photographers around the world to capture these robots in action."

Among the interactives are a 360-degree view of a 1,200-pound surgical robot, a crawling robotic baby called iCub, and NASA's space humanoid Robonaut.



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