Mystery Monsters

Math Shapes and Cool Tools for Young Imagineers!

Think digital design and fabrication are too sophisticated for 6-year-olds? Think again! Challenge young students to create a 3D “Mystery Monster” with FabMaker Studio. Ask them to identify and combine shapes, weld shapes, and morph shapes. Encourage them to add 3D wings, legs, ears and other body parts. You’ll be amazed at what young children can create when they get their hands on friendly digital design and fabrication software.

Designing “Mystery Monsters” is a motivating way to address foundational math and engineering skills. It can also inspire meaningful writing prompts and support science standards. In the process, students learn easy but powerful digital design tools they can use for years to come. “Mystery Monsters” has been used successfully both in the classroom and for remote learning.

This project can be simple or sophisticated. Begin with Make Your Monster, then when you’re ready, move on to Morph Your Monster and Make Your Monster 3D. The following short videos and easy step-by-step directions will get you and your makers, young and old, up and imagineering in no time!

Make Your Monster

VIDEO #1: To get started, watch this short video, then follow the steps below to create your basic monster.

Step 1: New Project Click here to go to FabMaker Studio. Sign in and go to New Project and click OK.

Step 2: Choose Shapes Open the Shapes tool at the top. Drag shapes onto the screen and arrange them to make your basic monster. To resize a shape, select it and drag handles.

Step 3: Weld Shapes Make sure your shapes touch or overlap. Then place your cursor and drag around all the shapes to select them. Choose the Weld button in the left toolbar to weld your shapes. 

Tip: Be sure to drag far enough outside the shapes to select them all before welding.

Step 4: Rearrange If you want to rearrange your monster parts, you can Unweld. Select your monster and click the Weld button. This time, since your monster is already welded, it unwelds. Rearrange the shapes and then drag around to select them all and Weld again. 

Tip: Make a mistake? Use the red Undo and green Redo buttons on the left above the Trash can.

Step 5: Save Go to the File button on the top toolbar and choose Save. Select “My Online Files” (or another location if desired), give your file a name, and click Save.

Tip: If you save your FabMaker Studio file to My Google Drive or My Computer, it can only be opened from within the FabMaker Studio software.

Morph Your Monster

VIDEO #2: Watch this video then follow the steps that follow.

Step 1: Turn on Edit points With your monster file open, choose the gray Edit Points cursor in the top left corner of your design. The edit points that anchor your design will appear.

Step 2: Drag Edit points Drag edit points to morph your mystery monster.

Step 3: Add new Edit points Click anywhere on the outline to add a new edit point, and then drag the new edit point to reshape. Edit points can be tricky — sometimes it helps to zoom in. Play around. You can always Undo and Redo.

Step 4: Check your design Choose the standard cursor (black arrow) again to see your morphed monster.

Tip: If you Unweld after using Edit points, you’ll go back to your original shapes and lose all your morphing! Remember you can quickly Undo changes.

Step 5: Save Go to the File button on the top toolbar and choose Save or Save As

Make Your Monster 3D

VIDEO #3: Watch this video then follow the steps below.

Step 1: Make a new body part Use the Shapes and Lines tools to design wings, ears, legs, a bigger tail or other parts to cut separately and attach to your monster. Check the photos for ideas.

A. Shapes Tool: Choose a shape and use the handles to resize and reshape it. If you want,  combine two or more shapes, weld them, and then choose Edit Points to morph.

B. Lines Tool: Choose the Lines tool and then choose Straight Lines, Curved Lines, or Brush. When drawing with Straight Lines or Curved Lines, click to place each consecutive point. Double-click to place the final point. To close a shape, place your final point at or near the beginning point. For more detail on the Lines tool, see the FabMaker Studio Lines tutorial.

Step 2: Save Go to the File button on the top toolbar and choose Save or Save As.

Step 3: Print, cut and construct — or share a digital file

Share a digital file: For remote learning and low-tech settings where printers and cutters are not available, students can share a PDF or screenshot of their mystery monsters. They can also share the actual FabMaker Studio file so the teacher and other students can view, edit, print and fabricate. For more information on sharing files, go to FabMaker Studio Lessons & Tutorials and check the Quick Tips videos.

Print and cut by hand: Click the Print button at the top. If you want to color by hand or use color paper, select “Print Cut & Fold Lines” and “Remove Color Fill” on the Print Preview page. Then select Save to PDF and print. 

Cut with a Silhouette: If you want to color by hand or use color paper, you can send your design directly to the cutter. Click the Fabricate button at the top and follow instructions. Tip: Shapes have automatic cut lines, but objects created with the Lines tool do not. If you want the Silhouette to cut these objects, you need to define cut lines. For more information on cut lines and using the Silhouette, see the guides and videos on the FabMaker Studio Tutorials & Lessons page.

What To Do With a Mystery Monster?

  • Describe your mystery monster. How big is it? How does it move? Where does it live? What does it eat? Does it have any enemies?
  • Tell a story about your mystery monster.
  • Now that you’ve honed your design skills, create a real-life animal or an entire habitat complete with flora and fauna.

Written by Peggy Healy Stearns, lead designer of FabMaker Studio, the first digital design and fabrication software designed for elementary students. Created by the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning and Creativity in collaboration with Glen Bull and the UVA Make To Learn coalition. Available from FableVision Learning.