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Introducing students to TinkerCad

If students are unfamiliar with TinkerCAD, you may wish to go to https://www.tinkercad.com/3d-design and scroll down to view the interactive lessons. “Learning the moves” is a great one to have students go through. "Chess Pawn" walks them through building a chess pawn. If you have extra time, have students work through the classes at their own pace.

Below are some basic steps you can take to introduce your students to TinkerCad.

  1. Go over basic navigation in TinkerCad with a computer mouse. Go over tumbling (rotating around to look at the model from different angles), panning, & zooming in and out with the mouse. Some students may want to use their trackpad or touchscreen instead of a mouse, but a mouse makes designing in 3D much easier. Point out the navigational buttons on the left-hand side and demonstrate how they can change the view. Give students time to test these tools.
  2. Next, demonstrate dragging out basic shapes to the workplane. Mention that although these are simple shapes, we can use them together to create unique and complex models. Pull out a green roof shape and remark how this shape could be a great starting point for a sharp tooth, but we will be modifying shapes in interesting ways to get creative with our teeth! Give students time to drag out some shapes.
  3. Show the students how you can use the arrow keys to move shapes around and also talk about the "Snap Grid" drop-down box at the lower right. Have the students change this value and use their arrow keys to move the shapes. What happens? The shapes move in different increments! See this handy TinkerCad Hotkey Cheat Sheet for keyboard shortcuts.
  4. Demonstrate how to rotate shapes on the workplane. Show rotation with the rotation handles and also rotation via typing in different angle values.
  5. Demonstrate the various ways objects and shapes can be resized. Make sure you mention typing in exact measurements as we will be using this for sizing the teeth precisely. The students will eventually check their bite in TinkerCad, but 8-10mm is a good height for a tooth.
  6. Demonstrate the workplane tool. Have students press "W" on the keyboard or click the workplane tool icon. Next, have them click a side of any shape they dragged to the workplane. What happens? A new orange plane sticks to that side of the shape! Now, have students drag out a new shape. What happens? The new shapes will stick to that new workplane! This can be helpful when adding teeth to the jaw piece. Demonstrate by pressing "W" on the keyboard, and then click the top of the template model where the teeth will sit. Now, any shapes you drag out will automatically sit on top. Show them how to reset the workplane by clicking the original blue box. Tip: Press "D" on the keyboard to automatically shift any model selected to sit on top of the current workplane.

TinkerCad Useful Tools

A workplane is assigned to one side of the green roof shape to make adding text to that side easier.



Workplanes in TinkerCad are surfaces that shapes stick to. You are given an original blue workplane and every shape you drag out will snap to it. Creating new workplanes can be helpful in building complex models with precise alignment. To add a new workplane, press "W" on the keyboard or click the workplane icon and then click on any surface of a shape. A new orange workplane will stick to that surface and any new shapes dragged out will snap to that surface as well.

Aligning Shapes

After selecting the Align button, choose a black dot to align your models to. The different dots will align the models to different axis. Mousing over them before clicking will show you a preview.

Use the alignment tool to make shapes line up.

  1. Hold shift down while choosing multiple shapes that you want to align or by dragging a box around them.
  2. Click on the Align tool
  3. Click on the black circles that appear to align the shapes at the center or the ends of a shape.
  4. Click anywhere on the workspace to exit the Alignment mode.

Duplicate & Repeat
TinkerCad's Duplicate & Repeat function in action. Here, the sphere itself was duplicated, moved to the right, and then sized down. Continuing to use the Duplicate & Repeat button, the modifications continue to be duplicated.
On the left, you can see two separate shapes - a cube and a hole-cube. On the right, the two shapes have been combined using the Group function and because one shape was a hole, that section gets subtracted from the other.

Duplicate & repeat

  • When you duplicate something once, it makes an identical copy exactly in the same space.
  • If you change the copy, and then make a duplicate of that, it will repeat any modifications to the 1st copy on the 2nd copy.
  • For example, let’s say you have a cube and then click the duplicate & repeat tool.  Then you move that new cube over to the side. If you click the duplicate & repeat tool on the 1st copy, the result will be a 3rd cube spaced the exact same distance as you moved the 2nd cube.
  • This also works with dimensions. If your first copy is 2x the height of the original, the 2nd copy will be 4x as high as the original. (the 2nd copy is 2x the height of the 1st copy).
  • This can be useful for making repeating designs such as architectural stairs and even robotic gears.

Note: If you only want an exact copy of a shape, use CTRL+c and CTRL-v or the tool that looks like a clipboard.


To make it easier to see shapes that have been set next to each other, or to prepare for printing, you can group shapes together.


If you group a solid object with an object you’ve turned into a hole – it subtracts the hole object from the solid. Many complex shapes can be made this way.

After selecting the Mirror button, choose an arrow to flip your model. The different arrows will flip the model along different axis. Much like the Align function, mousing over the arrows before clicking will show you a preview.



You can use the mirror tool to flip a shape left to right or up to down.  This is useful if you want text to be backwards like when making a stamp.  

  1. Click on shape (or text)
  2. Click on Mirror tool
  3. Click on one end of the left-right arrow at the bottom of the shape to flip left-right.  The arrow on the left will flip up-down.
  4. Click anywhere on the workspace to exit the Mirror mode.
The Scribble tool allows you to draw shapes freehand and automatically extrudes your drawing into a 3D shape. You can always go back and edit the scribble.

Scribble Tool


The scribble tool allows you to draw in 3D. Remember, you can turn any shape in TinkerCad into a hole including the scribble tool. For example, you can write your name in cursive with the scribble tool, turn the signature into a hole, and subtract it from a cube to get a 3D printable mold of your name!

Note: The scribble tool tends to not work on Google Chrome sometimes. If it won’t work or will only draw straight lines, switch to Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer.

One useful Shape Generator is Extrusion. With this tool, you can manipulate a 2D drawing to generate a corresponding 3D shape.

Shape Generators

Click on “Basic Shapes” and then choose “Shape Generators” to view featured and all parametric shape creators! These tools can create complex shapes and geometry with ease. Drag one out to the Workplane and change the parameters in the shape detail pane to see what they do. “Extrusion” is a great featured one that can teach kids the basics of curves for 3D modeling.

Your Creations

Saved shapes are stored under "Your Creations" and can be used in any TinkerCad file.

If a student has a shape that they really like and may want to use again, they can save it.

  1. Click on “Basic Shapes” and then “Your Creations”
  2. Click the shape you want to save and then click the “Create Shape” button.

You can name the shape and you will always be able to find it again under “Your Creations”, even in a new Tinkercad file!

Custom Tinkercad Templates

You may wish to give each student a standard shape to work off of.  Below are the steps to do this.

  1. If you create a TinkerCad class, you can create template files and add them to “Activities”. Students can then access the template files and import them to their projects. In doing this preparation, all students can easily start with a standardized basic shape. See the below steps:
    1. Click on the TinkerCad class you created using the tutorial in step 2. Next, click on “Activities” and then click the “+ New Activity” button to create your stamp activity. Give it a name.
    2. Go back to your homepage and create a new 3D Design on your account by clicking the blue “+ New” button.
    3. First, click on “Edit Grid” found near the bottom right of the work plane and change your measurement units to Inches. If your students are older and/or you would prefer to stick with millimeters that is fine. However, inches seem to be easier for younger/3D beginner students to conceptualize as they start working with real world dimensions.
    4. Next, create your template shape.
    5. If you want students to add on top of a template shape, press “W” on your keyboard and click the top of the shape. This creates a new work plane on the surface of the box. With this, anything a student drags out will be aligned to sit on top of the box.
    6. Next, lock editing of the box by clicking the little lock icon in the info panel for the box. This ensures the students cannot change the size or placement of the box. Of course, if you are allowing the students to change their base size and shape, you do not have to do this. This step is to ensure all students start with the same base.
    7. Finally, Rename the TinkerCad design name by clicking at the top left where it has assigned a name.
    8. Back on your TinkerCad homepage, click the gear icon at the top right of the design you just made and choose “Add to Class Activity...” and add it to the activity in your TinkerCad class that created.
  2. Below are the steps for students to pull the template into their projects from TinkerCad class.
    1. From the TinkerCad homepage, have them click the “Classes” button on the left side under their username.
    2. Have them click on the class you created for the students.
    3. Have them click on “Activities” and then click the name of the activity you created named something similar to “3D Printed Stamp”.
    4. There should be a file associated with the activity that they will see. This is the base file you created for them. Have them click on “Copy & Tinker”. This will open up a copy of that design which they can make their stamp on! Have the students rename their file with their name to make it easier for you to find later.
  3. If you do not wish to create a TinkerCad class and activity, create your shape and export it as an .stl file. You will then need to share that file with all the students so that they may import it individually into their TinkerCad designs. You may do this via an online file management system (such as Google Drive or Classroom), or by putting it on a thumb drive and downloading it onto each student computer.

Additional Resources

Interested in more STEAM Project-based Learning resources? TinkRworks K-8 supplemental curriculum makes it simple to add hands-on STEAM education to your school. Learn more: www.TinkRworks.com.

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