I recently stumbled upon a great web site for teaching with paper crafting – DigitalFabrication.org is from the Curry Center for Technology and Teacher Education at U. Virginia. The site is mostly about using a Silhouette (aka Craft Robo), a desktop paper/vinyl cutting machine about the size of a small inkjet printer.
I have one of these machines and it is currently on-loan to CrashSpace. It does a good job cutting card-stock and vinyl. One of the Crashers (Matt Pinner) used it to make a Campbell’s Soup costume with vinyl decals. Matt gave a class on using it back in May. I made some simple vinyl stickers for a car window.
Back to the Digital Fab site … they have some good videos and FAQ on the site about using it for teaching kids using paper cutting/folding (aka Kirigami). One really cool video is this one showing the creation of a rack and pinion system from card stock.
They use a combination of Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw and a neat tool called fablab ModelMaker. The latter piece is a fairly low cost 3d modeler that drives the Silhouette and is targeted at schools/educational market. They have a nice video showing kids from Punahou School (Oahu) using the machine with an inkjet printer to create ‘cereal boxes’ to learn math (although they may not know it.
I emailed the creators of ModelMaker and learned they are working on a program to roll the software out to a few more Hawaiian schools. Also the software can create STL files to output to the Fab@School 3D printer. Since this is the same format used by Makerbot, I’m going to have to experiment with it for both of my machines!