Epilog Laser Cutter
As a child, I was constantly playing in the mud. I was interested in all the creatures the Earth had to offer, no matter how many legs they had. However, a few years ago I suddenly noticed that I no longer had the same appreciation for insects. I had developed an aversion to bugs, like most people that say "ew!" when they spot one. I decided to dig into my past and try and find the turning point. There wasn’t one. Years of being too busy to spend time outside, lack of knowledge on the creatures I used to love, and the general society’s “ew” had eventually turned me. So, I began to work with insects. I quickly found myself returning to my old self. I no longer felt uncomfortable seeing all of them at work. My interest in insects was reignited, and I hope to do the same for others.
Usually, when someone mentions “insects” or “bugs,” you can hear a resounding “eeeeww” from the audience. Insects are often thought of as creepy-crawlies, monsters, the stuff of nightmares, etc. However, they are also a crucial aspect of balancing an ecosystem.
Important, right? At the same time, data today shows that "more than 40% of insects are declining and a third are endangered." The worries are only increasing. Simply put, we need insects. So how can I help take away the "gross" stigma bugs carry, and help children become interested in what exactly they are?
So, how can I help take away the "gross" stigma bugs carry, and help children become interested in what exactly they are?
I decided to contribute to Ohio State University's Museum of Biological Diversity's 2018 Open House and create an interactive activity for the Triplehorn Insect Collection. The open house brings in thousands of visitors each year of all ages, wishing to see everything the museum has to offer. I designed a station where visitors could put together their own insects. I had a few goals in mind throughout the project:
The design had to be simple enough to appeal to young children, yet aesthetic and elegant enough to also attract an older audience
The assembly of the insects should be simple enough for young children to do with little to no help
With a small budget, the material cost had to be as low as possible
I settled on creating two designs: a butterfly and a dragonfly.
Using source images, I made an outline of the dorsal view of each of the insect’s wings, and a lateral view of their bodies in Adobe Photoshop. The butterfly consisted of two parts, and the dragonfly of three. Then, I converted the outlines into vector images in Adobe Illustrator, and multiplied it to fill an entire page.
After trying different materials, I settled on using 6-ply Railroad Poster Board. It is strong enough to have structural integrity, while being thin enough to not sacrifice the delicate design. I used an Epilog Laser to cut out the pieces, which covered over 25 pages of 24 in x 36 in poster board.
My model bugs also had holes lightly cut into their bodies, allowing for the addition of legs. During the event we borrowed colorful pipe cleaners from another activity in the collection (Googly-Eyed Dragonfly) to make the legs of our insects. The bugs were then put in little bags so that the children could reassemble the insects at home without losing any parts.
For the big day, the pieces were then separated by type and labeled accordingly. During the Open House, the activity was a huge success! (I was there as a volunteer!) Both children and adults took the time to complete the activity. Many children even drew their own designs on their insects. I hope that activities like this will help the younger generations continue to be fascinated and appreciative of the world around them. Hopefully, if the younger generations grow up with a sense of wonder about insects, the commonly found disgust of them will eventually fade away.
After the open house, I was approached by a few schools who wanted to do this activity in their classrooms. Thus, I expanded to project to include a few more animals, and created a simple instruction manual, all of which can be downloaded here. I believe that activities like this will help the younger generations continue to be fascinated and appreciative of the world around them.