Introduction: How to Run the SparkTruck Stamps Workshop

This is one of our favorite workshops to run! In about 2 hours, it covers topics ranging from graphic design to civic engagement, all through a fun hands-on experience that incorporates both low-tech and high-tech making.

This workshop requires several facilitators (bare minimum = 3). One needs to be stationed at the computer (which will accept the students' e-mailed logo designs and prep them for laser cutting), one needs to be supervising the iPad station, and one needs to be leading the clay handle station.

We've found that the ideal age for this workshop is ~12 years old (6th grade), although we've run it successfully with students a few years older and younger.

For us, the limit of students that we can comfortably accommodate in this workshop is 25. This includes splitting them in half for the middle of the workshop, such that one half works on the iPads and one half works on the clay handles at a time, and then the two groups switch.

Quick stats:
Total time required: 2 hours
Number of facilitators: 3 minimum
Number of students: 25 maximum
Age of students: ~12 years old, +/- 2 (but grownups love it, too!)

Step 1: Prep

Here's what you need to have handy:


  • Laser Cutter
  • Laptop
  • iPads
  • Polymer clay oven
  • Sharpies
  • Pens / crayons / colorful markers
  • Colorful stamp pads
  • Toothpicks



Before the workshop, you should pre-cut 1x1.25" rectangles out of 3mm plywood (one for each student)—these will serve as the bases to glue the rubber part of the stamp and the handle onto.

You should also make sure to calibrate the laser cutter to prepare it for cutting the rubber sheets.

Anatomy of an assembled stamp (layers, top to bottom):

  1. Clay handle
  2. (Gel super glue)
  3. Plywood
  4. (Liquid super glue)
  5. Rubber

Step 2: Brainstorming

1. List

Some talking points for this step:

  • “What’s the first step to designing something? Brainstorming!”
  • “Who knows what ‘brainstorming' means?” “Coming up with lots of ideas!”
  • “So what we’re going to brainstorm about is ways in which we can make the world a better place.”
  • “Who can tell me one thing we can do to make the world a better place?” (Get examples from crowd.)
  • “Great! So now you have 2 minutes to list as many things as you can think of that we can do to make the world a better place. Go!”
  • “List every single thing that comes to mind. There’s no such thing as a bad idea when you’re brainstorming.”

2. Draw

Share out – get some examples of what’s on the lists.

  • “Now, you’re going to pick one thing on your list and draw a logo that will convince people to do that thing to make the world a better place.”

Talk about what a logo is (small picture that represents an idea), use the triangle-arrows recycling logo as an example.

  • “Okay, now circle one thing on your list that you’re going to make a logo for, and sketch lots of different ideas for that that logo can look like.”
  • “We’re still brainstorming, so that means don’t worry about making one perfect picture, but instead try lots of different ideas. I want to see pages filled up with logos!”

If they’ve exhausted one idea, tell them they can pick a different thing from their list to sketch logos for.

3. Refine

Now, bring in technical constraint: logo must be one continuous shape (in order to not fall apart when laser-cut out of rubber). Talk about what makes a good logo: very simple, recognizable from far away. Get examples of good logos (Nike, McDonald’s), and draw a bad one (a whole scene with house, tree, dog, etc.).

  • “Now, you’re going to pick one of your logo ideas and work on it to make it even better.”

Stress the importance of one simple contiguous shape, without any fine detail. Show them the size of the final stamp (1x1.25") – say we’re forcing them to make it this small so they really have to think about making it really simple and clear. Give them a few minutes to iterate.

Step 3: Digital Logo Design

Line up by the iPads, everyone takes turns drawing their design on the iPads and emailing it into the instructor sitting at the computer.

One instructor is sitting at the computer, processing the files (accept e-mail, put into Illustrator document and insert designs into template grid of 1x1.25” rectangles).

Once all kids' design are ready, let them watch the laser cutter cutting them out of rubber. When it's done, the students can use a toothpick to poke out all the negative spaces of their design.

Step 4: The Handle

1. Prototype

  • “Here we’re going to make a handle for our stamp! We’ll make it out of clay that we’re going to bake in our oven.”
  • “Who knows what the word ‘prototype’ means?” “A practice/rough version or model of something you’re going to build later.”
  • “We already did a prototype today. The final version of the logo is made on the iPad. What was the prototyping material for that?” “Paper and Sharpies.”
  • “So if we used a 2-dimensional prototyping material when we had a 2-dimensional final material. So if our final material this time is going to be clay (3-dimensional), what should we use to prototype?” “Play-Doh.”

Have each student take 3 pieces of Play-Doh (tell them color doesn’t matter), each about the size of a large grape.

  • “You’re going to make 3 really different versions, or prototypes, of what your stamp handle can look like.”
  • “Here are 2 important things: 1. We will glue your handle down to this flat piece of wood, so make sure your handle has a nice flat part on it somewhere, and 2. The design of your handle has to somehow relate to or represent the design of your logo.” (Use an example, like a trumpet handle for a treble-clef logo.)

After everyone made 3, share out, have them pick a favorite, and pair them up for feedback if time permits (everyone tells each other 1 thing they can do to make their handle even better).

2. Final version

Have each student get a piece of Sculpey (same size as prototype) and make their final handle. Toothpicks are useful as a sculpting/texturing tool. When everyone is done, have them put their handles on the baking sheet and put it into the oven at 275°F for ~15min. When they’re done, have them wash their hands and move to iPads if they haven’t done that yet.

Step 5: Assembly

We've found it safest to have one of the instructors handle the super-gluing.

Each student gets their rubber logo and a wooden base and lines up in front of a facilitator (who’s wearing nitrile gloves if she doesn't want to glue her fingers together). Making sure to glue in the mirror-image orientation, the student puts down the wood base, facilitator puts drop of liquid super glue on it, then facilitator puts rubber logo piece on top. Student holds out hand, facilitator puts the base + rubber on it, instructs student to hold it like that for a minute or two while it’s drying.

When the handles come out of the oven and have cooled, the same workflow is repeated with the gel super glue.

Step 6: Using the Stamp

1. Letters

Students write a letter to somebody who has the authority to make a difference about the issue at hand (can be school or elected official, parent, the President, etc.), explaining why they care about the issue and what change they want to see. Then, they stamp their logo onto the letter.

The letter-writing is a great activity to fill time while you're waiting for the handles to bake, or while the files are being prepared for laser cutting.

2. Cards

Students fold a 3x5” index card in half to make a small card – stamp it with their logo and decorate with markers. Can be written to the instructors as a memento (describing what the stamp represents), and/or to parent/friend/etc.

Step 7: Debrief

We believe that the debrief is an important part of any learning experience. This step gives the students a chance to own their learnings by articulating them.

Some questions that we like to ask are:

  • “What did you learn?”
  • "What was your favorite part?"
  • “Who got stuck? How did you get unstuck?”

Step 8: Questions?

If you have additional questions about running this SparkTruck workshop, or if anything in this Instructable is unclear, don't hesitate to get in touch with us at!