I'm currently an aerospace and mechanical engineering PhD student, and found out at the beginning of the spring semester that they wanted me as a teaching assistant - TA - for our undergraduate senior design course. Students have to design, build, and fly an RC aircraft with certain payload in our sports arena (an indoor dome - free kudos to any who guess the right college!). Since I'd done my undergrad and masters at that college (going for a triple-sweep) and built a solid plane, the department decided to give me the keys to our laser cutter room.
[Insert mad scientist laugh here]
Seriously. They gave me the keys, and said have fun...not in so many words, but since nobody in the class could cut parts for two months, and I had to *learn* the control programs...well, let's just say I knocked out a couple home projects, all in the name of material and settings testing. The previous TA taught me enough to run the machine and control software (Adobe Illustrator), but didn't know proper vector powers or speeds, so I figured it was "two birds with an expensive 40 Watt laser" time.
All in all, it was a fun semester helping the students, and I learned a lot about laser cutting and proper image setup. There were some obvious issues with my methods - mostly vector line clean-up problems and path doubling (which actually was a great mistake - you'll see why) - but between helping seniors with airfoil and fuselage CAD parts and my random test cuts, I made a good chart of material / thickness / laser power / laser speeds and some nifty art to boot. Since I'll most likely run this class next year, too, I'll have time to stock up on some more art ideas...