BENTON TOWNSHIP — Carving pumpkins at the Fab Lab at Lake Michigan College looked a little different from traditional pumpkin carving.

The designs were carved into plastic craft pumpkins using a laser instead of into real pumpkins using a knife.

“We did use real pumpkins the first year, but they molded really quick,” said Chad Dee, director of the Hanson Technology Center where the Fab Lab is located.

Kids “carving” the pumpkins on Wednesday at the lab didn’t seem to mind the difference. They were mesmerized as the laser quickly moved over their pumpkin, engraving into it their chosen design.

Mark Vanderboegh from Watervliet brought his two children – 7-year-old Dominic and 6-year-old Sophia. He said he plans to carve pumpkins the traditional way when it gets closer to Halloween. Sophia said she prefers using the laser.

“It went faster,” she said.

Dominic said he liked his engraved pumpkin, but he has an idea on how to improve it.

“I’d like it better if (the design) was bigger on (the pumpkin) and if it was cut all the way through,” he said of his smoking cauldron design. “Then I would cut the top part off and it would actually be a pumpkin.”

His sister said she was going to go home and color her design of a witch on a broom.

Dee said those ideas are great because the Fab Lab is where people can take ideas and personalize them.

“The lasers are able to engrave on close to everything,” he said.

Neil Boreczky and Sam Cray, Fab Lab technicians, explained to the kids how the lasers work.

Cray told them not to be afraid of making a mistake.

“That’s half the fun of being at the Fab Lab,” he said. “‘The Magic School Bus’ used to tell me, ‘Get dirty, make mistakes and have fun.’”

The second laser engraving pumpkin workshop later this month is already full, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engrave your own pumpkin.

Dee said anyone can bring a craft pumpkin to the Fab Lab during public hours, which are 4-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, when college classes are in session. He said someone will be on hand to help them with the machinery. The cost is $5 to $15 an hour, depending on what machines are being used.

The calendar of events can be found at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/fab-lablake-michigan-college-11884334054. More information can also be found on its Facebook page, Fab Lab at Lake Michigan College.

The fees cover the costs of materials.

Upcoming events include how to create your own pop-up Christmas cards, etch on wine glasses and make a set of wooden Christmas ornaments.

Dee said an upcoming workshop for New Year’s Eve will have people etching designs onto their own wine bottles between the labels.

“We tell people that if they want to give the gift of wine, come down, laser it ... and then it’s something that is personalized, but it’s also a nice bottle of wine,” he said.

He said the Fab Lab has become very popular since it opened two years ago. In addition to the laser cutters, people can use the 3D printers, CNC router, vinyl cutters, two sewing machines and Adobe Creative Suite software, along with other hand tools.

Dee said the technology is not new. What is new is that the average person now has access to the technology through maker spaces and fab labs across the nation.

“It’s been the past five years or so that they’ve been popping up all over the place,” he said.

He said no two fab labs or maker spaces are alike.

“You gear it towards your community,” he said. “... Sewing wasn’t part of the original design of the Fab Lab. We had people inquire about it, we were able to get a grant and we picked up some equipment with the grant and now the cosplay kids use it. They’re always going to some different kind of con. They’re making shirts and T-shirts and everything else with it.” 

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege