My Sketch Up Obsession

               Well here it is, Sunday. I hope you had a great week off and that you are ready for the home stretch. I thought I was going to spend my week playing with the new Mac Book Air that I received right before the break. (Thank you to everyone responsible for getting that wonderful new tool into my hands; from the Superintendent all the way to every tax payer, I hope to use it well). While I did spend about an hour or so getting familiar with it, especially the photo booth feature, I ended up turning back to my own laptop for all my personal uses.

One of these uses was teaching myself to use Google’s Sketch Up 3D design tool. I first mentioned Sketch Up in a post back on Novemer 16, 2008. At that time, I started the program and explored a few of the features, but I didn’t have the time or a reason for learning to use it. On several occasions, as I passed by the A wing, I have seen Mr. Cosgrove’s classes using the program, and it always appeared to be something that was a lot of fun. I just never seemed to need such a tool.

Then one day during vacation, my brother-in-law (who lives in the same town, but whom I never see because that’s just how it goes sometimes) stopped by, asking if I could help him draw a plan for his backyard deck. He carried with him the original plans we had made more than a decade earlier, after a holiday meal. I used to have some cheesy “design” program published by Better Homes Gardens and my brother-in-law still had the printout from that app. I told him that I would be happy to help him with his plans, but that I no longer had that software. This is when I thought of using Sketch Up.

               I downloaded the software, which took no time at all, and started it, thinking I would be able to use it with no tutorials or practice. Everything about the program was familiar; the work area/field, the toolbars, zooming in and out using the wheel on the mouse. After about ten minutes, however, it was clear that I did not know what I was doing. I was thinking and drawing as though I was using a flat two dimensional surface, and Sketch Up is a three dimensional tool. Frustrated, I turned to pen and paper and my brother-in-law and I drafted the plans for his deck the old fashioned way.

Later on that evening, I returned to Sketch Up, determined to learn how to use it. I watched the first two tutorial videos to learn the basics about navigating in the program and how to use the simple tool set. That was enough to get me going. At first, I was happy just making big boxes with uneven rectangles for windows. I learned that cut, copy and paste work pretty much the same, except that they occur in three planes, which can get tricky if you’re not careful.

After mastering the basics, I created the simple patio for my brother-in-law that started this whole learning adventure, but my curiosity was piqued. I started wondering what other things I could do. Could I make a “simple” map of the high school library that I could use in the future? I started imagining a 3D map of the LMC with all areas labeled that would let people take a “virtual tour”. What the hell, I thought, I’m on vacation. How much work could it be to make a simple map?

Needless to say, I ran into problems immediately. How big is the LMC? How tall are the doors? How deep is the pit? What are the dimensions of the pit? How big is the office I sit in every day? Suddenly, I had all kinds of questions to answer. Even if I knew all of this, how would I furnish the area? I still haven’t explored all of the Sketch Up drawings that are available, and anyway, I was kind of hoping to learn more about the software by building all kinds of things.

               That, however, became one of my problems. My obsessive compulsive side took over and I found myself designing everything from file cabinets and lounge chairs, to computers and eventually, giant robots. The more I drew and cut and copied and pushed and pulled and rotated and grouped, the more I wanted to do it.

What is mind blowing about the application is that you can be thinking about the layout for a 150′ x 125′ room one minute (that’s what I ended up estimating the LMC to be) and the next minute you can be designing the 1/4” RCA plugs for the computers that will sit on the desks. I’m still having fun playing around Sketch Up, and hope to complete the LMC library model to use for educational purposes. (At least that’s what I’m telling my wife every time she catches me “playing” around.) Have a great day, and hope to see you all tomorrow.

P.S. After working for hours and hours in a virtual three dimensional world, zooming in and out, panning around the x, y and z coordinates, it was weird coming back to writing a linear post.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.

BONUS: My Secret Robot Project



April Quick Hits

Happy April Fool’s Day. No tricks coming from here, just a couple of quick hits for now.

  • CNN this week is going to have a series of programs about Kids and Race, hosted by Anderson Cooper. Race and racism has once again grabbed the headlines in national news, due in part to the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. Cooper and CNN had apparently planned this special, however, before that tragedy focused the nation’s attention on race, having commissioned a study over a year ago in preparation for this program. The show will air nightly the week of April 2 at 8 and 10 pm on CNN.
  • Congratulations to my HHS colleague and fellow blogger, Darshan Thakkar, who just recently published two more books and has another on the way already. One of his blogs, Trends in Multimedia Instruction is included in our blogroll and is of course, recommended reading. His books, Web Based Machine Translation: History, Models, and Lessons for the Secondary Language Classroom and Remembering New Words in a Second Language, are available at the links provided. We look forward to hearing more from Mr. Thakkar in the future, and learning all we can from him.
  • Google is so much more than just a search engine, but many people aren’t even aware of the many other things you can do with it. Our television and media guru, Mr. Brandon, passed along this find called The Comprehensive Guide to Google Free Tools for Teachers and Students, to me, and now I would like to share it with you. Among the many topics covered are how to use Google Sketch Up, Google Reader and Google Scholar. I’m not convinced it is the final word in all things Google, but it is easy to navigate and includes a number of short videos to cover each of the topics. (The author of the site and presentation claims to be a teacher in Canada and a computer enthusiast. I explored his posts for about an hour and have bookmarked it for future use.)
  • Any casual reader of this blog knows how often I turn to TED Talks to share an inspiring or mind blowing video. TED Ed is an offshoot of this great site, aimed at a younger and perhaps less technically inclined audience. It uses more animation and visual aids than the usual “talk”, but I hope that makes it more accessible and fun to watch. In How Simple Ideas Lead to Scientific Discoveries, Adam Savage (co-host of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters) demonstrates two breakthroughs in thinking that came from simple observations. While the channel is still very young and therefore limited in its collection, the other topics include such interesting titles as “How Containerization Shaped the Modern World” and “Evolution in a Big City”.
  • Serendipitous YouTube Find, Leonel Toromoreno’s Art Studio @ Perkins Academy. I still paint, draw, sketch and doodle to this day because of the huge influence that my uncle, Leonel, had on my childhood. He was an art prodigy if I ever saw one, replicating the paintings of the Renaissance masters using what he could afford; pencil on canvas. I spent hours as a kid dressed in oversized clothing, modeling as a waif for his still life drawings. Today, like so many people in my family, he is an educator, sharing his time and his gifts with the next generation. I was excited to find the video linked above showing off some of the work he’s doing in his classrooms.

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found something worthwhile.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2012. All rights reserved.