FabFriday: Engineering with Classroom Materials

Welcome to FabFriday, a blog series that highlights tips and tricks for using Fab@School Maker Studio. Fab@ School Maker Studio is a web-based digital fabrication software tool that creates a more accessible, comfortable onramp for teachers to introduce STEM learning to their students. Each week we'll be posting ideas about using different materials, design tips, and construction techniques to help you offer even more fab learning to your students. 

Paperclip? check! 
Straw? Check!
Popsicle stick? Check!

Wondering about this week’s FabFriday checklist? Check!

In past FabFriday posts, we’ve explored different techniques such as working with shapes, adding color, and learning about different kinds of paper. While paper construction is versatile and surprisingly robust, with a little creativity it’s possible to engineer even more, like inventions that animate and go places, by using materials found in your classroom!

Fasteners: Brads, Paper Clips, Staples, Binder Clips

There are all sorts of fasteners that come in handy when engineering Fab@School Maker Studio projects. Brads (brass paper fasteners) are great for linking pieces of paper through a shared hole, and you can even create rotating or hinging parts. Paper clips can be used to join edges of paper, add weight, and when bent can be used to create unique metal elements. Staples are another way to join together paper, especially in a design that requires a lot of strength.

 I used paper clips when designing my trebuchet catapult, bending them around to create a release pin on the end of the throwing arm.

See it in action! Prototype 3 trebuchet created in Fab@School Maker Studio. #fabmakerstudio #createbravely #itworks #maker

A video posted by FableVision Learning (@fablelearn) on

Engineering in Action
Fab@School Maker Studio was demonstrated at the 2016 National Technology Leadership Summit in Washington, DC during a Making & Storytelling workshop. 

An example of the laser cut articulated figure created in Fab@School Maker Studio for the Making & Storytelling workshop.

Participants were introduced to the linear motor invention kit developed and piloted in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and in the Laboratory School for Advanced Manufacturing. Through this activity, workshop attendees used laser cut images - created in and exported through Fab@School- to construct a moving articulated figure that expanded upon the paper version.

Give it a try at home! These paper figures use brads as joints so the soccer player can kick and the basketball player can move both her arms and make the shot! Hop into Fab@School Maker Studio and try this project with library images. 

Supports: Paper/Plastic Straws, Popsicle Sticks, Splints, Dowels

If there is something that you want to build that is challenging to construct entirely out of paper, try and find materials that you can use to strengthen it. Popsicle sticks and wood splints can be used as ribs in between layers of paper to create thin and strong constructions, as well as for constructing frames to build off of.

Straws and dowels are fantastic tubular supports that are light and strong. They also make great axles for wheels, gears, and lever fulcrums. Check out the dowels in the underbelly of this STEAM-Infused STELLA Solar car. This construction allows the wheels to freely rotate while remaining very strong. 

Try combining all or some of these techniques together to fully utilize all of your resources! I used both paper straws and brads to construct this wind-powered pinwheel. What can you combine together with Fab@School Maker Studio?

Look around your classroom and see what ideas spring up from your surroundings! A designer’s environment is a constant inspiration, and finding new materials fuels the inventiveness of creativity.

In future posts, we'd love to share YOUR tips and ideas about how your'e using Fab@School Maker Studio. For more FabFriday posts, click here. Try out some or all of these techniques in the Winter Design ChallengeSend your photos to Patrick@FableVisionLearning.com for a chance to have them featured on the next FabFriday!