Week 3: EC&I 831 Major Digital Project

While looking over the options for our Major Digital Project, I was swarmed with the thoughts of many possibilities. While going through my options, I quickly noticed that all my options had a few themes in common. It became apparent, that I want to create something practical and usable within my classroom, something that includes one of my personal interests, and also something that will cause high levels of excitement and engagement with the students in my classroom. These themes lead me to choosing Option B and begin learning a new skill while sharing and documenting my progress. I’ve chosen to learn how to use a CNC router and incorporate it into multiple curriculums throughout multiple grade levels at our school.

As some of you may know, I’ve taken over the Drafting and Computer Aided-Design 10, 20, and 30 courses at my school. Initially, I knew very little about these courses, but being interested in computers and technology, I jumped at the chance to sign a contract that included teaching them. At that time, our school only had access to an 8-year-old 3D Printer. Similar with other emerging technology, 8 years in the 3D printing world is an eternity, and a few years after I took over the courses, we were fortunate enough to be able to purchase a new printer that was over twice the size, and much more efficient.

Shoutout to Wave of the Future 3D in Saskatoon, SK. They truly helped me in every facet of my learning journey with our printer, and they are great guys to deal with. They are also the guys who 3D printed an entire camper trailer, that you may have seen online or on the news a couple years back.

Before I get too far on a tangent, let me explain that 3D Printers, CNC Routers, and similar machines are important in bringing ideas, and the plans you create in a Drafting and related classes, to life. They are one of the final steps in the design process, and I find it extremely important and rewarding when a student is able to see their ideas, and designs be actualized. A CNC router is going to be the next step in our improvement of our Drafting, and PAA programs, and will be another avenue, and material to allow students to gain experience with. Over the last couple of years, I have put hundreds of hours into learning and becoming proficient with our 3D printer, and I hope to take a similar path with a CNC router.

Some of the goals I hope to achieve during this experience:

  • Become moderately proficient with running and maintaining a CNC Router
  • Incorporate CNC router projects into PAA9, Drafting 10, and Drafting 20/30 (Next semester)
  • Understand the difference in router bits, both in cutting shape and quality
  • Experiment with different types and thicknesses of wood and aluminum (difficult for some CNC routers)
  • Document my progress through blogs, photos, and possibly short video
  • Engage students
  • Encourage teachers of other curriculums, to learn alongside me, and incoporate it into their classes where it may be beneficial
  • Create a beginner’s resource for other teachers/schools/individuals who may be in the market to purchase one. The goal would be to release this online as a free, open-source document. I have plans to include using the software Canva to create this resource. I have very little experience with Canva, so if anyone has some suggestions on how to use it, or other software to check out, I would love to hear about it!

Based on the research I have done so far, there is a very wide variety of manufacturers, software, hardware in the CNC router world. Personally, this led to an overwhelming amount of information to sift through while I was trying to find the CNC router that I believe would be of most benefit to our school. This also means that much of the learning material online is machine specific and is intimidating to work through for beginning users. If I can make this journey easier, more efficient, or more cost effective for other teachers, schools, or hobbyists in similar positions, it will be well worth it.

P.S. If you have any suggestions of resources, or experts that wouldn’t mind me picking their brain, I would love to hear from you!

12 thoughts on “Week 3: EC&I 831 Major Digital Project

  1. Wow! This sounds incredible. What a good real-life applicable project that you can use in your everyday teaching. It sounds really interesting, and it seems as if there is a lot of learning and practicing involved. I absolutely love Canva, and really only started using it in the Winter 2021 semester, but man is it pretty great! I like how there are so many different templates, fonts, and real possibilities. I am excited to follow along with your journey and see what you create and learn! Good luck!


  2. This intrigues me! My school doesn’t personally have a CNC I do talk to the shop teachers around our school division and see the cool things that students are able to create with a CNC. You have an opportunity to learn, teach, and see results not only for you but your students as well. That will be a rewarding feeling and will be fun to follow along your journey!
    I feel as if 3D printers are already fairly accessible for schools across the province, but as CNC and Lasers become more accessible people will be looking to access resources and have a curriculum guide. This could be the beginning of that.


  3. This sounds like an interesting and potentially rewarding project. I can’t imagine how many avenues you could take within the set of courses you are teaching or the number of potential tools you could be learning about. I personally do not know a thing about the CNC router but it looks like a pretty cool tool! I look forward to seeing what you are able to create!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Colton, this looks amazing! I wish that when I was taking these courses in high school, we had the technology to take on and accomplish these types of projects. Your students are lucky to have a teacher who is willing to learn a new skill to create a super authentic learning project! I am looking forward to see how your project goes!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Colton, this sounds like such a worthwhile learning project and love how it is integrated with your daily work. We have CNC plasma cutting machine at the Comp in Estevan and it is so cool to see the various projects that students and staff are working on. I know the other VP in my school built his own CNC router and I am sure he would be a great resource that you could connect with.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great project and I love the way you’ve presented your learning objectives. This is an area that I have only general knowledge of and have always wished to know more. I’m fortunate to get to learn it through you!

    In terms of maker info, check out Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez – that have a book (Invent to Learn) aimed at the classroom and they share lots of great resources! https://inventtolearn.com/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The book looks great! It just got added to the amazon cart. The idea of the school as a multi-displinary learning/maker-space wasn’t really around during my high school years. I love the idea of it, and with the small amounts I’m doing, I’ve gotten good feedback from students!


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