Introduction: Custom Coins and Medallions
Custom Coins and Medallions
Math, Social Studies, English, Science, Grades 3 - 8
Lesson Overview Students use Tinkercad to design and create original coins, medallions, or other decorative items that depict the important features of a person, place, thing, or concept. Using a few simple design rules, students can put pictures and/or text on both the top and the bottom, reshape the coin, and easily 3D print the items without supports. For beginning Tinkercad users, coins offer easy success - the flat design doesn’t require complex supports in order to print properly, and very few graphics are needed to complete the design. Once printed, custom coins can be displayed, shared, or - depending on the content of the coin - used as teaching tools.
This project is structured to follow the Engineering Design Process (EDP), a process that helps designers in any discipline create solutions to problems. While there are many ways that people solve problems, designers often use the EDP because it offers a clear roadmap for them to follow as they work towards a solution. First, designers Define the challenge they are facing, then Learn more about the problem and Explore existing solutions. It’s tempting to skip these first few steps and head straight into brainstorming, but don’t! When designers take the time to understand the problem clearly, they come up with much better solutions. The Design phase is where brainstorming happens. Designers brainstorm multiple possible solutions, then develop a few of them into more detailed plans. Encourage your students to plan at least 3 of their potential ideas before choosing a design direction and starting to Create a product based on their design. If they hit any roadblocks trying to create their first design choice, they’ll be able to revisit their alternate design plans and choose a new direction - without starting from scratch. Designers then take time to Observe their design and see how they can Improve it. We strongly recommend that students have an opportunity for at least 2 Create-Observe-Improve cycles. When students feel they have to “get it right the first time,” they are less willing to take risks and be creative. By repeating the cycle, they have a chance to fix flaws and adopt successful ideas from classmates, and in fact, they’re practicing what professional designers really do. A good design cycle builds in time for the designer to Reflect on their product and the process of making it, looking for learning habits and insights that will help in future challenges. When the work is complete, designers are ready to Share. They bring their work into the real world, by posting, publishing, presenting, or exhibiting - or giving or selling if appropriate! - what they’ve made. For students working through a design process, a real audience helps students connect their learning and work experiences to the world outside the classroom. For Makerspaces and Maker projects, in particular, this is hugely important for building confidence in every student and a sense of community among Makers. To help students work through this process, be sure to build in planned “stops” at each step for students to record their thoughts and progress as they work through product iteration cycles.
How can we use graphic design to summarize and represent key attributes of a person, place, thing, or concept?
How can the design process and 3D modeling tools be useful tools in creating meaningful artifacts?
Time Required: 2-3 Hours design time
Skills Practiced: Critical analysis The Design Process 3D modeling in Tinkercad Symbolic Communication Materials Needed: Sketch paper and pencils Tinkercad Miscellaneous prototyping materials (paper, cardstock, foam sheets, markers, etc.) 3D Printer and filament.
Step 1: Define
Coins show important slogans, symbols, and personalities from history, mythology, and nature. But why? Simple words and images allow designers to clearly communicate in a limited amount of space - pick up any coin and look at the words and images. Ask yourself: where is this coin from? What is that country’s government trying to say about itself on that coin? Who are its heroes? What are their values? Does the country’s image on the coin match the image in your head?
Giving students the chance to design their own coin (or medallion, award, etc.) is a perfect opportunity for students to:
- Practice using graphic design as a communication tool.
- Develop awareness of symbolism by using it themselves.
- Develop awareness of visual arts and writing as works intentionally created by an artist or writer.
Simple prompts for 2-3 hour projects allow first-time Tinkercad users to focus on learning the software - students who are already skilled with Tinkercad can be assigned complex, higher-order-thinking prompts that require additional time for intense research, collaboration, design, and sharing. Consider the example of these two social studies prompts:
Simple: state shapes with an important landmark or product on 1 side, and a study question on the other.
Complex: class designs a “treasure hunt” game or exhibit that leads players through all 50 states, where the coin designs for each state form a portion of each clue.
Students create a coin or medallion that commemorates something important or interesting to them, following a theme that the teacher assigns. (E.g., a real or fictional country, social group, public figure, team etc.) Students will fabricate their work using Tinkercad and 3D printers.
- The coin must memorialize or celebrate something.
- The coin has at least 2 of the following features:
- Legible text.
- 1 or more pictures.
- Meaningful shape (other than circular).
- Size constraints: Max height: 0.2 in, Max area 6 square inches.
- Max print time: 30 minutes.
Student Product / Learning Goals
A custom-designed, 3D printed coin or medallion.
Step 2: Learn / Explore
1. Research: Students examine and analyze a few real-life examples of the product they want to create (coins, medals, etc.). Give students examples, and prompt them to observe, document, and discuss:
- What images do you see?
- What do you think of when you see that image?
- What text do you see?
- Who do you think made this?
- What are they trying to tell you?
- How do the text and image work together to communicate their message?
2. Collect: Have students document their research on the coin subject. Students can keep an inspiration page such as a blog, Google Docs, a notebook, Padlet, poster, etc to save notes or images.
Step 3: Design
REMEMBER: Be sure to provide stopping points for the class where students can observe, evaluate, and document their designs.
1. Design: Students use their inspiration page from step 2 as a reference and use one of the following methods to create at least 3 different ideas that meet the criteria defined above.
Option A: draw designs showing how this coin will look, naming each design element
Option B: sculpt design drafts using clay.
Option C: let the students try drafting directly in Tinkercad to get familiar with the program and make practice models.
2. Choose a Direction: Have the students choose a design to model and print. Consider also checking it against the “Thing” Checklist (this checklist can be found in the Resource section of the Lesson). Some examples:
One coin, two colors! Even if your machine only prints from a single filament, you can still get a multi-color effect. Pause the build and change the filament color to try this look.
2 different coins with raised features, enhanced with permanent marker (left) and oil paint pen (right)
The Image on right is the front face. The image on the left is the detailed back.
Coin commemorating the first discovery of “Brontosaurus” bones and their eventual re- identification as an Apatosaurus skeleton. Note holes in corners for creating a wearable necklace. State of Montana created using Tinkercad US State shape generator.
Step 4: Create
You can watch our video tutorial on Youtube:
This is a summary of the creation steps described in the video:
Create a body of the coin using a circle, ellipse, or other custom shapes (see in video)
Optional: Create a rim (optional) by cutting out some of the top of the coin (see in video)
Add engraved/raised text or image to the top of the coin (details below) (see in video)
Add engraved text or image to the back/bottom of the coin (details below) (see in video)
Check design against size constraints
3D printer “slicer” program to check against print time and volume constraints
Refine the design and iterate through the design cycle until you meet the design criteria and constraints.
Print the design
Use permanent markers or paint pens to enhance parts of the design
Admire and share the coins!
Adding raised photographic images (see in video)
- Make or choose a high-contrast image
- Import to an svg app or website
- Download the new svg file
- Import the svg file into Tinkercad workplane
- Add height to your file
- Drag to coin body, adjust position, and group with all other parts of coin.
Note: at one time, Tinkercad offered an Image Generator in its Shape Generator gallery. It is currently offline for debugging, but there are separate apps and sites that can perform this function for you - search online for “convert image to stl.”
Adding engravings (see in video)
- To add words or simple images as engravings, import or create your object.
- Select the object - in the Shape editor panel, click “Hole”
- Set object height to desired engraving depth - 0.05” or 1 mm works well
- If adding to the front/top of the coin, align the top of the engraving to the top of the coin body
- If adding to the back of the coin, Flip object as needed, then type “D” to drop the object to the workplane
Adding a raised rim to one side - works best for simple convex shapes (see in video)
- Select the body of the coin, and make a duplicate. Select the duplicate, and turn it into a hole.
- Adjust its height to an ideal engraving depth - 0.05” or 1 mm works well
- Holding “shift,” drag the corner of the hole to shrink its footprint slightly.
- Select both the original coin body and the hole. Align the objects so that their footprints are centered.
- Select only the hole. Use the handle to drag it upwards so that it erases a small amount of the main coin body. The rim should now be visible. Remember: raised features, like the rim, are best limited to .05 in or 2 mm of thickness.
- Select the hole and the coin body - Group them to turn them into a single object.
1. Create a copy of the file for personal use by clicking “Tinker this”– give it a new name.
2. Ungroup the coin elements and move the pieces apart to see how each is incorporated in the object.
3. Refer to coin drafts from Step 3: Design above, and begin to replace parts of the Tinkercad model with original graphics.
Step 5: Observe, Improve, Iterate
REMEMBER: Be sure to provide stopping points for the class where students can observe, evaluate, and document their designs.
1. Observe and document: Students print their designs, share, observe, and document what they notice. Some possible note-taking prompts they might respond to:
- What do the designs look like now that they’ve been printed?
- What parts of the design are unclear? Is anything too big? Too small? Blurry? How could the design be changed to make them clearer?
- When others look at the coin, do they see the ideas that the designers wanted them to? If not, what changes can designers make?
2. Improve: Students use their observation notes to return to Tinkercad and make slight alterations to their design. If any students are feeling particularly discouraged by their first round of printing, redirect them to their alternative designs from step 3.
3. Iterate: It’s a good idea for students to have an opportunity for at least two design-build-improve cycles. When students feel they have to “get it right the first time” they are less willing to take risks and be creative. On the second time through they can fix flaws and adopt successful ideas from classmates.
4. Download pdf bellow with possible discussion/documentation prompts for Steps 5 and Step 6.
5. Follow instructions in the Create Step as needed for the next iteration.
Step 6: Reflect
Reflect: After the design and build time is over, have students reflect on the process and product. This reflection is similar to the one in the “Observe, Improve, Iterate” step but now includes reflection on the process as well.
Download pdf with possible prompts for Steps 5 and Step 6.
Step 7: Share
Give the students an opportunity to share their coins with the class or some other community. Options for sharing include presentation, demonstration, blog or online post, video clip, physical display, family events, and maker fairs, or in the use for which it was intended.
Step 8: Resources
To ensure you get a quality print, go through the list before tinkering and printing.
- Meets overall size requirements as specified in the course packet: Height, Width, Depth, Weight, Volume as specified in the challenge description.
- Embossed features stick out no more than 1 mm (.04 in).
- Engraved features go in no more than 2 mm (.08 in).
- Unsupported features (overhangs) are angled up at least 15⁰ (more is better).
- Bridge features have an unsupported span no greater than 12 mm (.5 in).
- Wall thicknesses are typically 2 mm (.08 in).
- Thin features such as details are no smaller than 1 mm (.08 inch).
- Round holes can be at any angle and are greater than 2 mm (.08 in)
Step 9: Project Extensions
Science + Social Studies:
- Coin that replaces existing currency from a specific country, with a figure from that country’s science history on 1 side and an innovation they are known for on the other.
- Students design a custom medallion for a notable scientist (or science concept) as a showpiece to accompany an essay or speech about the prize winner.
Math + Social studies:
- Students work in groups to design novel systems (or reinvent existing systems) of currency, with each student working to design a different denomination. Requirements may include but are not limited to:
- Different denominations of currency
- A standard value (e.g. gold standard) for each team to set the value of their basic unit
- Important people or symbols depicted on currency, explanation of choice
- Exchange rate calculators between different groups’ currency
- Maximum time/ease of production
- Method of mass production - in all likelihood, kids will choose molding, which makes our Candy Casts tutorial [To Be Published] a good intro step for a coin production project.
ELA / Literature:
- Students work in pairs: Students design a coin with specific meaning in mind, swap with a partner, and write about the meaning of their partners’ coins without knowing what the creator’s original intentions were.
- Coins with authors’ images or names on 1 side - on the other side,
- one of their characters thought to embody them
- one of their quotes that the student finds important
- an image symbolizing a theme the author often explores or explores in a work the students have read
We hope you had fun designing and sharing your Custom Coins and Medallions. What did you make? What materials did you use? We want to see! If you did this in a K-12 classroom, what subject was it in? Send us an email or leave us a comment so we can see what you're making.
Visit our website k12maker.mit.edu to get resources for K-12 teachers:
- Maker skills workshops for K-12 educators - Spring, Summer, and Fall
- List of Tools and Materials and illustrated charts to print and post
- Supervision and safety guidelines for shop administrators
- Training guides for common tools (including student checklists and refresher guides)
- Our Maker Methodology for designing Maker Projects for core curriculum, including sample projects