Design Engine Box-1

Design Engine community project

In September, the Ultimaker North American Community Team released The Design Engine, a card game to provoke, inspire, and entertain students, educators, 3D designers, artists, and engineers of all experience levels. The game, which can be played as a handy icebreaker or as a challenging activity sparking creativity over a period of time, is meant to be used to generate new projects and fuel a deeper exploration into the use of desktop 3D printers. Since its release, the game has been used in many classrooms and with many students. Now we want to challenge educators and students to help evolve the game.

You've read about the launch of the Design Engine, you've seen and maybe worked on solutions for the eight challenges issued during September and October, and you've heard about the winners of the Design Engine challenge. Now we're opening up the Design Engine to the community. We want to see how you're using or modifying the game with your students, and we want to incorporate your ideas into the next edition.

The Design Engine was specifically created to address educator requests for tools to help students create original works from their own imagination and to help motivate them through the process of mastering desktop 3D printing. While the starter pack includes instructions for several common approaches for how to use the cards in an educational context, the Ultimaker team always anticipated that the uses and “flavors of play” would vary greatly depending on the specific aims of the participants.

style of play
Original "flavors of play"
play as teams


What we love about the game is its flexibility, and how you can use it in very different contexts. For example, in October, the Ultimaker North American community team took the game to the MET for the Teens Take the MET event. We ran quick three-minute icebreaker challenges with the deck and then sent students out on postcard missions, where in addition to assigning a parameter to one of four challenges (Hybridize!, Project Runway, Lamp that, and A legend is born...), we added a MET gallery as the second element to consider:

Icebreaker Worksheet
card lamp
card legend
card runway
ttm 03
ttm 05
ttm 16
ttm 38
ttm 31
ttm 27 allison
Pioneer Allison Milgrom volunteering at MET

Teachers who are using the Design Engine

  • Andrea Relator, a social science teacher at Dominion High School in Sterling, VA, combined the Ultimaker Design Engine with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to help her students create solutions for Puerto Rico disaster relief.

  • Greenwich Academy's Emily Dixon shared that "it was great as a new teacher to have the Ultimaker Design Pack to really jog [my students'] minds into creating wild, out of the box ideas for idea generation. These ideas were then further refined with the design requirements we defined - mainly time and prototyping capabilities."

  • Pioneer Andrew Woodbridge from Grover Cleveland High School uses the cards to open their monthly Maker Share Out where all the students do some design thinking and share out on their projects.

  • Pioneer Brian Wetzel, a Computer Technology Teacher at Centerburg High School in Ohio has used the Design Engine Pack with his students to explore Design Thinking. Brian believes that students often get caught up with having a perfect product instead of focusing on planning and reflecting. While many student projects that came out of the game were printed, he emphasized that "the documentation of the design process was way more important than what came off the 3D printer."

  • Pioneer Matthew Wigdahl says that the 5th graders in room 141 at Oaklawn School "have used the cards as conversation starters for learning Design Thinking and Engineering Design processes. The modifier cards are an easy way to push conversations into more unusual, creative solutions. The variations in context also provide the students unique ways to imaginatively practice empathy."

  • Pioneer Adam Davidson from Durham's Riverside High School says "We love using ours in our maker club. We have a monthly game where we pit teams of students against each other to create the best solutions. We then create a plaque for the winning team out of KingCore HDPE on our ShopBot and post it in our programs trophy case."

How to play now

As of January 1, 2018, you may purchase your own set of the Design Engine from

Alternatively, you can download a print-and-play version, or play the game online.

Print-and-play version

The challenge

Over the Spring 2018 semester and up until July 1st, we invite students and educators to submit new rules, new challenges, new contributor cards, and new localizations.

The best contributions will be included in the 2018 Back to School edition which will be released August 15, 2018.

For more information about this project including resources and activities, go to the Design Engine community project page.