Introduction: Snappy Rings

About: The mission of the K-12 Maker team is to help K-12 classroom educators create and deliver fun, enriching Maker experiences - no matter what subject they teach. Building upon our experiences as K-12 teachers, w…


Language Arts, Grades 5-8

Created by Lydia Yu, MIT 2022, Diane Brancazio, Anya Timchenko, MIT Edgerton Center

Lesson Overview:

Students design and create customized rings with snap-on tops to represent significant traits, powers, or attributes of a specific character. The rings can be worn as props or identifiers in classroom conversations about characters in history and literature. An alternative use is to make a personal signet ring as used on old-fashioned wax seals.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.

Essential Question(s):

How can I express key character traits in a decorative and/or wearable artifact? How can I use the design process and Tinkercad to create a decorative or wearable artifact that represents the key traits of a character?

Skills Practiced:

  • Character analysis
  • The Design Process
  • 3D modeling in Tinkercad
  • Symbolic Communication

Time Required: 2 -3 Hours

Materials Needed:

  • 3D Printer and filament
  • Tinkercad
  • Misc. Arts+Crafts materials
  • Sealing Wax (optional)

Step 1: Define


Every character in a book is unique, with certain qualities that distinguish them from other characters and make them noteworthy. These traits often show up in the way they talk, think, and act. In this activity, students design a ring that represents the significant attributes and traits of a given character or figure they have studied and analyzed.


1. Definition:

Students will pick a character from a book that they read, determine the traits that stand out and make the character unique, and use Tinkercad to design a ring topper that represents these traits. The rings are 3D printed in 2 pieces, blank rings, and custom ring toppers. The finished rings can be used as identifying props, artifacts to share and discuss, or as signet rings to create wax seals.

2. Criteria:

  • The ring must contain 3 features that represent the traits of the character.
  • The ring must contain the snap features provided in this Tinkercad Thing: Edgerton K12 Snappy Ring.

3. Constraints:

  • The ring topper must be suitable for 3D printing. Check it against the “Thing” Checklist found in Step 8: Resource section.

Student Product / Learning Goals:

Students can make several toppers that snap onto one ring to show a variety of characters. The toppers can show a variety of forms, including abstract shapes, detailed insignias for sealing wax, 3D shapes or characters.

Step 2: Learn / Explore

1. Research:

Pick a book for the class to read and assign a character to each student, or have the students pick their characters. While they read, make sure students pay attention to their character’s words, thoughts, and actions, and take notes on the traits they notice of the character. They can also look at how the character changes throughout the book - characters are usually dynamic, and oftentimes there will be events that shape the character throughout the book.

Example: Consider Stanley Yelnats, the main character from the book Holes by Louis Sachar, as an example. At the beginning of the book, Stanley is shy, awkward and lacking in confidence. In general, though, he is kind and caring towards everyone else. At the detention camp, he is bullied by the harsh leaders and develops a closed-off, unhappy attitude. However, his deep concern and willingness to sacrifice for his friend Zero and the conditions at the camp eventually help him to grow into a more confident and strong person.

2. Collect:

Have students document their research on the characters. Students can keep notes on the things they learned or that intrigued them on an inspiration page such as a blog, Google Docs, a notebook, poster, etc.

Step 3: Design

1. Design:

Use the inspiration page as a reference and create a design that can be placed at the top of a ring and 3D-printed. Designs that can be included might be symbols that are significant to the character, shapes that represent their personality, or patterns that represent the ways they changed throughout the book. The design process is most effective when designers generate at least 3 different ideas.

Option A: draw designs on how this ring will look and/or function. Use paper, whiteboard, or drawing apps.

Option B: Build simple models using crafting materials (paper, glue, clay, pipe cleaners, etc.) to show look and/or function.

Option C: Let the students play around in Tinkercad to get familiar with the program and make practice models.

Example: Stanley is a character who changes dramatically throughout the course of the book. He develops from an unconfident, shy kid who is bullied into a strong, confident one who is sure of himself. Friendship is extremely important to him and his friendship with Zero is one of the main contributing factors to his growth. Friendship can be represented by joined hands, or 2 hearts, or 2 overlapping rings.

Kindness is a major part of Stanley’s personality. This can be shown as something soft and rounded, such as a cloud, a blanket, a warm smile, or welcoming arms.

The young detainees were tormented daily by the endless work of digging holes. That can be shown by shovels, strong arms, darkness, or simply a hole.

2. Choose a Direction:

Have the students choose a design that meets the criteria of the project (See Step 1: Define).

Example: The design chosen here includes the two interlocking circles representing friendship, a rounded design that grows larger represents Stanley’s kindness and a deep round hole. This design was chosen because the designer liked its abstraction as well as the ease of design.

Step 4: Create

1. Make the Ring:

Open for following file name, “ Edgerton K12 Snappy Ring”. Create a copy of the file for personal use by Click “Tinker this” and follow the video tutorial above.

2. Parts Guide:

  • A. Small Ring: Recommended for Grades 5 and below.
  • B. Medium Ring: Recommended for Grade 6 and above.
  • C. Small Topper: Used for adding items on top of.
  • D. Medium Topper: Used for adding items on top of.
  • E. Small Topper Snap Hole: Used for subtracting clip cutouts from a shape.
  • F. Medium Topper Snap Hole: Used for subtracting clip cutouts from a shape.

3. Getting the finger Diameter:

Students determine the best hole size for their finger by measuring the circumference of their finger and deriving the radius. They will use the equation C = 2 π r, which can also be written as C = π x D. They then calculate D from D = C /π. To do this, cut a strip of paper and wrap it loosely around the finger and draw a line where the paper begins to overlap. (See diagram E.1). Measure this length on a ruler (See diagram E.2), then divide it by π (3.14) to get the diameter.

Step 5: Observe, Improve, Iterate

  1. Wear the rings! Try them out with sealing wax. Encourage students to share their creations and see how others interpret the imagery on the rings.
  2. It is recommended that students have an opportunity for at least 2 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.
  3. Provide stopping points for the class where students can observe, evaluate, and document their design.
  4. Give students a chance to record their thoughts and progress as they work through product iteration cycles. This documentation can serve as a formative assessment.

Possible prompts:

Step 6: 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.

Possible prompts: Snappy Ring Project and Process Documentation

Step 7:

Step 8: Share

Give the students an opportunity to share their Snappy Rings 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 faires, or in the use for which it was intended.

Step 9: Resources

“THING” Checklist:

To ensure you get a quality 3D print, go through the list before tinkering and printing. (See images above)


Basic Tutorial - 3:27 mins, will explain the basic shape moving, plain orientation, scaling, and grouping.

2D to 3D design - 5:52 mins, showing how to clean up SVG files and create them into extruded 3D shapes.

Advanced shape generator - 19:46 mins, a demonstration on how to create your own free-form shapes in order to make custom designs.

Step 10: Project Extensions

Research signet rings and have students learn more about their history and use. Students then can design their own insignia for self/character/wax seal. Experiment with inverted shapes and how this affects the outcome of a wax seal.

Try designing for the character. Give students time to think deeply about the character's traits, then design in Tinkercad a tool or accessory that meets the needs of their character in. The design may or may not be 3D printed.

Apply the character analysis process to another subject or unit of study. For example, represent a scientific or math concept in this same medium.

We hope you had fun designing and sharing your Snappy Rings. 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 to get resources for K-12 teachers: