Handheld CNC router brings CNC precision to the classroom
November 19, 2021 | 3:23 pm CST
Shaper Origin in the classroom

Students at the Laing Middle School of Science and Technology, in Mount Pleasant, S.C., are working  with the Shaper Origin handheld CNC router.

Shaper, the human-involved robotics company, has developed a handheld  CNC router that is being used middle school and high schools across the country to not only instruct on woodworking technology, but also teach CNC techniques.

To expand this concept, Shapers has developed the new Shaper Classroom Guide helps instructors teach digital design skills, creative thinking and problem solving for use in the classroom. Created as an educational companion to Origin, Shaper Tool’s easy-to-use handheld CNC router brings digital precision to the craft of woodworking.

“We believe that hands-on learning is key to a successful education,” said Joe Hebenstreit, CEO of Shaper Tools. “Critical thinking, problem solving and the practical application of knowledge are increasingly important in order to provide students with a bright future. With Shaper Origin in the classroom, the traditional shop class experience is safely and creatively elevated to teach students about project design, building principles and basic computer-assisted manufacturing techniques.”


Shaper Origin is an easy-to-use handheld CNC router. With automatic cut correction and an intuitive touchscreen interface, Origin allows students to accurately create a variety of woodworking projects. Combined with Shaper Workstation, which functions as a fixturing and precision workholding solution, students can quickly create projects that open up a world of woodworking, joinery, fine furniture making and much more. 

“Adding Origin to a classroom or school shop class is a great way to build on existing tools that you may already have,” noted Hebenstreit. “In recent years, classrooms have adopted machines like 3D printers and laser cutters. Combining those with Shaper Origin to further expand students’ capabilities and broaden their creative possibilities is a win-win.” 

One such classroom can be found at Laing Middle School of Science and Technology, in Mount Pleasant, S.C., where Mel Goodwin is the STEM coach, and an Origin instructor. “Our students are interested in creating things,” he said. “When we ask what's appealing about a particular project, they always tell us that it's the opportunity to make their own idea, to create their own thing. Shaper Origin, puts them in a position to create products that they really couldn't imagine before. We’ve found that having Origin in the classroom gives a range of possibilities that simply doesn't exist with any other tool that is likely to be available to a middle school student.”

At Glendale High School in Glendale, California, the Origin broadens the number of students who can participate in learning about CNC. “With a traditional CNC machine and a class of 35 kids, only one student at a time could learn how to program the CNC and 34 other kids would have to watch. That doesn’t work very well,” said Joe Campbell, CTE instructor at the school “This means multiple students can be working on the Shaper Origin at the same time, And you don't need, necessarily, the big wood shop that a lot of the schools have lost. One of the interesting things about Shaper Origin is that as soon as you use it one time, your brain is filled with ideas of what you’re going to do next.”

The Shaper Classroom Guide includes how to use the Shaper Origin and Workstation and topics such as scanning, designing, cutting, classroom projects, learning resources with helpful videos and links, safety recommendations, work area set-up, a settings guide, tool recommendations and even a helpful grant writing guide for teachers needing additional resources to fund Shaper Origin and Shaper Workstation in the classroom. Teachers interested in obtaining the free Shaper Classroom Guide can visit shapertools.com/edu to download the free guide.

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About the author
Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).