3D Modeling Program I most often use - Rhinoceros 4
Most 3D modeling programs tend to be a little bit too intimidating for people to attempt to learn. Not just skill-wise, but many of these programs are priced at ridiculously expensive retail costs. Who wants to pay a couple thousand dollars to get their hands on a program they don’t even know if they will use or enjoy? With Google’s SketchUp being released for free online, this type of 3D digital technology is no longer only for serious engineers, architects, designers, animators, and various other closely related professions.
Google SketchUp 7
It’s so easy to use – I used to think SketchUp served as a good stepping stone into more serious 3D modeling programs, but lately I’ve been shifting my point of view. The controls are easy and clearly understandable, and since it’s supported by Google, online help is always a click away. When we were first introduced to SketchUp in school last year, most of my colleagues scoffed at it. They blew it off as if it was some dumbed-down version of “real” modeling programs. Maybe so, but I think not. It is used professionally today, and it is supported on both Mac and Windows. I encourage anyone reading this that has in the past been intimidated by the idea to download and try Google SketchUp 7 for free today.
With Google Earth becoming such a big hit lately as well, SketchUp has the integrated feature for people to build models in 3D and instantly upload their designs into Google Earth for others to see and interact with. There also exists a 3D Warehouse that houses a plethora of models people created and shared with others – everything from houses to Ikea furniture. It makes me happy to see how much people are willing to share with one another for free, and I love the open-source feel of the whole thing.
Lego Digital Designer allows users (important to note the demographic – “kids”) to create out of digital Lego bricks any idea that they have come up with or drawn out. They can search through a slew of palettes provided by the software to find exactly which bricks they need for their creation. Once they spend a little bit of time modeling their idea in the digital realm, LEGO allows users to upload their designs to their website where they have a showroom feature. More importantly, they will gather the pieces, package them up, and send the creator their digital design in real life LEGO bricks. What?? Once I got over how cool this concept was, I became irritated that this wasn’t available in my younger days – LEGO was one of my favorite things to play with as a kid.
Lego Digital Designer
With programs like these two making their way out of engineering/ technical realms and into the average, every-day person’s homes, it is only a matter of time until you have motivated kids entering high school with the skills and mindset to create their ideas in a digital 3D space. This is both important for building technical skills and for harnessing creativity at an early age.
I’d love to hear other opinions about this topic, and as always I encourage you to leave questions, comments, or ongoing discussion right here.