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




About htwilson

born in brooklyn, raised in queens, massachusetts, that's where I be.
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