Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NCTM Again

Here's a picture taken from someone in the back of our 450-person room last week, during our talk at NCTM. Sorry about the quality - apparently it was a cellphone camera ;-) Next time we'll get someone to take a professional video.

All of the slides, handouts, and SketchUp models used in our talk can be found on Jon Choate's website.

I've also placed all of the Sketchup models in Google's 3D Warehouse. These models have scenes you can click to progress through each model.

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Math Teachers Love This Stuff

Last week was the annual meeting of NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) here in Washington, DC. I gave a talk with Jon Choate (geometry teacher, author, overall genius) entitled "Exploring 3D Geometry with Google SketchUp 7." Our room could accommodate 450 but we expected maybe 100-150 to show up. Twenty minutes before we began, the room was almost entirely full, and was completely full when we got started. (Fabulous turnout, but we ran out of handouts!)

By all accounts, the talk was a huge success. Most of the teachers hadn't seen SketchUp before, and there were audible "oohs" and "ahhs" when we showed how to make Hirschhorn tilings, icosahedrons, cuboctahedrons, etc. Here's one example we showed, demonstrating how section planes and a cone can be combined to show various 2D conic sections:

Click the image below to find this conic section SketchUp model in the 3D Warehouse:

I've placed all of the model used in our NCTM talk in the 3D Warehouse; click here to see the entire collection. Most of these models have scene tabs across the top, which you can click to see the progression of the model. Enjoy!

Anyone can create anything in 3D!

Friday, April 24, 2009

SketchUp Scenes in Google Earth

Scenes in SketchUp can be used for many things, but they're most commonly used to save camera views. If you have two or more scenes, you can create an animation.

I recently mentioned that SketchUp scenes also appear in Google Earth (see this post) - something I can't believe I didn't know about before (hey, nobody's perfect). This week, AECBytes published my article on this topic. For this article, I created a building in Washington, DC, made a few scenes relative to existing landmarks, and imported the model into Google Earth. This video (no audio, don't adjust your speakers) shows what's it all about:

If you give this a try yourself, and create an interesting tour in Google Earth, please let me know ( I'd love to post a few examples of what others come up with!

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I created a new screencast today, demonstrating that you can tessellate any shape that has either three or four sides (a.k.a. triangles and quadrilaterals). At the end of the video, you'll also see some cool patterns you can make using irregular pentagons and hexagons.

I'll be presenting some of this stuff to a room full of math teachers tomorrow at the Annual Meeting of National Conference of Teachers of Mathematics (or NCTM). SketchUp is a fabulous tool for teaching 2D and 3D geometry in school, but not nearly enough educators know about it.

The projects from this video are detailed in two of my GeomeTricks books:

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cookbook Video

It's sort of ironic that I of all people published a book with "Cookbook" in the title. Because as my family will tell you, I can't really cook (good thing my husband can). If you're curious to see what's in my new book, Google SketchUp Cookbook, check out this video.

The book is hanging in there in some of Amazon's top-seller lists, and reviews are good!

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Coloring Mosaics: My 5-Year Old's Masterpiece

Need a rainy-day activity for your kids?

My 5-year old daughter is home from school today and it's raining. So after playing some PBS Kids games online, she asked to find mommy's mosaics and color one. I have over 50 mosaics in the 3D Warehouse: click here to see the entire collection. (These are SketchUp files; you can download SketchUp for free.)

Each mosaic has three scene tabs at the top of the drawing window. The first scene shows my pattern of colors, one scene has shapes in all gray so you can color them on-screen using your own pattern, and the last scene is white with black outlines; you print this out and color on paper.

Here's what my daughter made today, in about 30 painstaking minutes:

She then played with the Circle and Rectangle tools:

She's now working on another one; I hope this keeps her satisfied till the sun comes out and she can play outside!

Finding and using these mosaics is described on the Free Kids Stuff page of my website. There are also some puzzles you can assemble. (I'm working on more stuff for this page, such as folding paper cut-outs.)

If you're interested in making your own mosaics, there are two books in my GeomeTricks series that show how:
For educators, these books are great supplements for both math and art classes!

Anyone can create anything in 3D!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Need Free Trees?

Design pros, hobbyists, and students will equally enjoy trying out this plug-in!

If you've done a lot of work in SketchUp and use actual 3D models of trees, maybe you've noticed that these trees bog down your model - everything moves slowly. The solution for this is to use a 2D "face camera" tree, which is like a cardboard cutout tree that rotates to always face you, giving the illusion of being 3D.

Google provides a few schematic "face-camera" trees, but these don't look very realistic. You can use a digital photo to create your own trees, but this requires a good bit of photo trimming, which can be tedious.

Render Plus provides several types of SketchUp plug-ins (some free and some not) and they've just released RpTreeMaker. This is a FREE plug-in you can use to create fractal tree images, complete with realistic-looking trunks and leaves. You can adjust nearly every parameter a tree can possess: age, height, branch length, crookedness, leaf density, and much more. You can control the quality of the rendering as well: low quality makes a faster tree, and vice-versa. Once you complete the rendering of the tree, you insert it right into your SketchUp model as a component.

Here are a few trees and shrubs I whipped up in about 15 minutes:

(If you want to download the above model, click it to open its 3D Warehouse page.)

The plug-in is pretty easy to use, and rather fun to play with. You won't know exactly what your tree will look like until you insert it into your SketchUp model, but if you don't like it, you can erase it and start over, adjust your parameters slightly each time (RpTreeMaker starts from the last tree you made).

What's very cool about these trees is that you can (but don't have to) mask them for shadows. This means that the image will be created as if there is blank space between each leaf and branch, and the shadows will therefore be accurate. SketchUp doesn't do this on its own with alpha-transparent images (images that have transparent backgrounds), so the masking option is quite useful!

If you want to see some examples of RpTreeMaker trees and shrubs, you can get some of Render Plus's trees and shrubs in the 3D Warehouse.

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

My New Book!

Well it's not new to me, since I worked on it for several months last summer and fall. But today is the book's official release date, though it's been available on Amazon for a few days now.

The Google SketchUp Cookbook is published by O'Reilly Media, who publish all sorts of tech-related materials. This is my first effort with a "real" publisher; until now I've only self-published (which of course I continue to do). It's quite a different experience, working with a whole team of editors, graphic artists, proofreaders, marketers, etc.

The Cookbook is geared toward intermediate and advanced users, who already can create basic models and want to learn some professional techniques about components, digital images, styles, presentations, animations, etc. (Almost all of the other commercial books you'll find are geared more toward novices.) Other things that make the Cookbook unique:
  • It's printed in full color!
  • It contains step-by-step, illustrated, hands-on tutorials (like all of my books)
  • The starter models can all be found in the 3D Warehouse, and, in most cases, finished models as well. Some of these finished models have scene tabs so you can click through the model's progression.
If you buy a copy and enjoy it, please post a review on Amazon! I know I base my own Amazon purchases on customer reviews, and I assume most people do the same.

Anyone can create anything in 3D!