Tuesday, March 31, 2009

24-Vehicle Pile-Up

Watch what happens when 24 SketchUp cars, trucks, and other vehicles slide down a ramp, do a ski jump, and land on a big flat box.

This project was the idea of Guzman Tierno, a middle school math teacher in Italy. As part of a course on solids, each student designed his or her own car, then Guzman used Sketchy Physics to do the ramp simulation. (This makes me REALLY want to learn more about Sketchy Physics...)

The kids involved in this project are just 13 years old. I certainly didn't do anything this cool when I was 13 (or 18 or 25 for that matter...) The only objects Guzman had to model himself were shock absorbers for the monster truck. This collection in the 3D Warehouse has the model of each car, plus the model of the whole assembly.

If you're a math teacher who's looking for reasons to integrate SketchUp into your classroom, Guzman has written some interesting how's and why's. I can't wait to see his next class project.

Anyone can design anything in 3D! www.3dvinci.net

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guided Tour

A great class project would be to design an art museum in SketchUp, place actual paintings on the walls, and use the Walk Through tools and scenes to create a guided tour both inside and outside the museum. I was searching Google's 3D Warehouse for a model like this and didn't find one (so I guess I'll have to create one myself sometime).

However, I did run across this model, which is a great example of something to strive for when creating your own models. Click the picture below to link to the model's page in the 3D Warehouse.

If you downlod this model into SketchUp, you'll see that it has 32 (!) scene tabs across the top. Click on each scene to see the view change. To play the animation, right-click on any scene tab and choose Play Animation (it's a little long, but worth it).

This model has it all: repeated components (to keep file size low), accurate sizes, and best of all, it's painted with digital photos of the actual building, both inside and out. The scenes guide you all over the model so you don't miss a single detail. It's quite a masterpiece.

The download options for this model include a KMZ download - this is Google Earth's file format. If you download and open the KMZ file, you'll see exactly where this model is on Earth (in Germany, actually).

And here's something I just discovered: if a model has scenes, you can open the scenes within Google Earth. When you open a KMZ file, the model is placed under "Temporary Places." Under this, you can find a link for "Tour," and under this you can find each scene. Double-click a scene to open it. Way cool.

Anyone can design anything in 3D! www.3dvinci.net

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bridge Modeling Contest

Every few months, Google accounces a SketchUp design competition. My favrotite one (until now), was the Gingerbread Competetion.

Now they've announced a Bridge Modeling Competition for students, which is exciting for me for two reasons:

  1. I worked for about 8 years as a bridge engineer (design, inpsection, renovation)
  2. I'm a judge for this competition!
The contest is open to students in higher education (18 years or older). If you're thinking of entering, or know someone who might want to enter, check out some great bridges in the Google 3D Warehouse.

Anyone can design anything in 3D. www.3dvinci.net

Sketchy Physics

I really don't know much (yet) about Sketchy Physics. It's a plug-in for SketchUp, and according to the YouTube videos I've seen, enables you to do incredibly cool things. With the release of dynamic components in Version 7, you can do similar things with moving parts, but only Sketchy Physics seems to follow the laws of Newton.

For example, check out this video, which is about a year old:

When I get some free time (what's that?) I'd love to dive into this a little deeper, and maybe write some tutorials about how to start with some simple models. This seems like something every physics teacher should know about.

Anyone can design anything in 3D! www.3dvinci.net

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Animation in Stages

Keeping with the theme of animations, one of my favorite presentation techniques is the staged animation you can create when you place section planes within groups or components.

The animation below is one I created for the Google SketchUp Cookbook, written for intermediate and advanced users.

You can download the SketchUp file for this model from the 3D Warehouse. Click through the scenes to see each part of the model grow or shrink.

Below is another one I like: it's an animation of building a car, containing view changes.

You can get this model here.

Anyone can design anything in 3D! www.3dvinci.net

Thursday, March 5, 2009

One trillion dollars - what does it look like?

I'm constantly surprised by the uses people find for SketchUp. This link
shows what one trillion dollars look like, in stacks of $100 bills.


Sang (the name of the person in the model) should grab that money and run. (Except that he could only carry a tiny fraction of it.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Animated Fractals

Looks like I'm into animation this week. I found this site that shows animations of fractals:


There are dozens of sites like these, but this one has nice, clear graphics. Animations like these can surprise a kid who thinks math is boring!

I dabbled a little in fractal animation myself. The movie below comes from one of the models detailed in my book: Star Fractals (part of the GeomeTricks series). You start with two stars, one "fat" and one "skinny," and create a few levels of fractals for both. Eventually the stars look the same, except for the tiny points at the ends.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Animated Engines

If you've ever wondered what makes a car or machine run, check out this site:

Animated Engines

The animations of combustion, steam and stirling engines are really fun and interesting to watch, especially for anyone interested in mechanical engineering.

Matt Keveney, the site's creator, created schematic drawings of each engine using DesignCAD, made copies at set intervals to simulate the animation, exported each copy as a separate image, and combined the images into an animated .gif file. This page explains how he did it.

You can get similar models using Sketchy Physics, more on that later!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Excellent Polyhedra Model

Go to this site: http://www.zebragraph.com/Site/Polyhedra%20Dome.html, and download the .skp model linked there. (This is a SketchUp file; if you need the application you can download it for free at http://www.sketchup.com/.)

This was a project by Jon Choate and his students at Groton School. (Jon is the co-author of my GeomeTricks books.)

The dome itself is a polyhedron, and you can take a tour inside to see many colorful polyhedra "sculptures" on display stands. To take the tour, just click the Scene tabs at the top of the SketchUp window. Very cool!

SketchUp and Autism

I've known about SketchUp's Project Spectrum for a few years now, when Tom Wyman first spoke with me about his work with the Boulder Autism Society. Turns out that this application which was designed for architects somehow got a foothold with some autistic kids, who were able to communicate complex designs on the computer, even if they couldn't express their ideas verbally. Seems SketchUp mimics the way an autistic mind works, which was confirmed to me once by an overjoyed book customer who was thrilled to have discovered SketchUp.

And having a mildly autistic son myself (he's only 7), I've seen firsthand how SketchUp can bring out some inner creativity which might have otherwise been hard to tap. For a kid who has issues focusing, he can sit and design different houses for 30 minutes, without any fidgeting or redirecting.

Newsweek now has a piece on the SketchUp-autism relationship: http://www.newsweek.com/id/179952