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Teacher Workshop: Laser Cut Planter Boxes

Updated: Mar 27

Spring has sprung in “Delran by Nature Presents Spring Planter Boxes,” a professional development workshop held for elementary and secondary level Delran faculty and staff on Monday, March 25, 2024. Staff assembled their laser-engraved custom planter boxes and planted succulents to bring a small piece of nature home with them in each of these hour-long sessions.

Before the sessions, teachers were offered a choice of six designs to be cut and wood burned on the FabLab’s Trotec Speedy 100 and 300 laser engravers. The designs included spring-time themed decals, such as a daisy, a rose, a butterfly, or a bunny, as well as Delran community-themed decals like the pawprint and the Delran Bear mascot. Teachers also had the opportunity to request customization, such as text, to be added to their engravings, with several opting to personalize with their name or a message, like “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Mr. Shaun Deloche, a teacher at DHS, created the decals and modified the designs in Corel Draw, a CAD program, to optimize them for printing. He spent about three hours creating and optimizing the designs before sending them to the Trotec Speedy 100 and Trotec 300 laser engraving machines. Once there, the designs took about four hours to print and process, such as meticulously pushing out some of the delicate pieces. He noted the Speedy 100 was great at printing the plain planter sides and bottoms, but that he preferred the Speedy 300 for the more intricate designs due to its speed. To give users an idea of how long the pieces take to cut and woodburn on the machine, he said a plain plank takes about nine minutes to generate.

During the session, Deloche and Co-Coordinator of STEM Initiatives, Mary Jo Hutchinson, led the staff participants in how to assemble their planters. Hutchinson and Co-Coordinator of STEM Initiatives Erica DeMichele answered questions about succulents, also sending attendees aftercare instructions for their plants.

This workshop was the second teacher event this year using the laser engraver. The first was in December and was a two-part event: to learn Corel Draw first with teacher Paul Maraldo and then a second session to use the engraver to make die-cut wreaths. For the March event, designs were pre-cut to allow staff time to assemble the planters and plant their succulents.

STEMbassadors were very hands-on, enjoying the opportunity to be teachers to their current and former educators. STEMbassadors Sam and Josh were observed assisting with sign-ins, distributing materials, and making planters for staff unable to attend. In the secondary session, Gabby and Amelia were checking in with staff and helping them assemble; in the primary session, Vidhi, Vishwa, Amelia, and other STEMbassadors were observed helping staff as well. Students use Corel Draw and learn about the Trotec machines in Production Design and Geometry, according to Mr. Deloche.  Thank you to our STEM staff, including Mr. Deloche, and to all of our STEMbassadors who volunteered to teach the teachers!

One teacher remarked that they enjoyed the workshop as they had not had the opportunity to create something like the planter since woodshop when they were a student, and that it was a good time to unwind with colleagues and learn something new. Another staff member said how nice the experience was, as while she often takes her daughter to STEM events, it was fun being able to take the time to create a project as an adult. A third staff member praised the project and was excited to add fairy lights to illuminate her planter after the event. Overall, it was a relaxing afternoon of learning, making, and bringing a bit of nature into our classrooms or homes.

DelranSTEM expresses gratitude to the Delran Elementary PTO and to New Jersey STEM Pathways for sponsoring the event. The Delran Elementary PTO donated the succulents, specialized potting mix, and pots for the planter boxes. A mini-grant from the New Jersey STEM Pathways Network provided the wood and other supplies for the workshop.

Want to know what’s next for DelranSTEM? Our events are listed on, including the upcoming eclipse, the annual Delran STEM Fair, and information about Summer STEAM Camp. We’d love for you to join us soon!

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