3D modeling software allows users to create or view 3D objects or environments. There are a wide range of uses of this software, from special effects for films to illustrating books or graphic novels. In education, the software is typically used for students to view and manipulate scientific models or environments for building and manipulating models or prototypes. By building and exploring 3D models, students can gain insight into how reconstructed historical spaces might have been used, explore how spaces have changed over time, or investigate how objects or spaces are constructed.
One of the emerging tools used at Duke for engaging students in the process of creating and exploring 3D models is Google SketchUp. Available for Windows and Mac, the software is a powerful, easy to use program that allows you to create 3D objects and environments. Items can be exported in a variety of ways and even used in other programs. Google also offers an online library, 3D Warehouse, where SketchUp users can upload and share objects created in SketchUp. SketchUp is available in a free downloadable version suitable for many classroom uses and a “pro” version that adds some enhanced features for more in-depth work.
Some faculty are also using Autodesk Maya at Duke with courses. Maya is a professional level commercial software package that has been used for computer aided design and 3D work for several years. ISIS, for example, has offered courses where students can explore representations of spaces and data using Maya and the software is used for constructing spaces for use in the Duke immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE).
Through building 3D objects, students can gain “real world” experience in a wide range of fields where 3D is used for building and prototyping. Architects and urban planners are using SketchUp and other 3d software to design buildings and structures, engineers for designing facilities and products, and historians recreate and explore spaces and structures.
If you are new to using 3D software, SketchUp is an easy way to get started. You can download the software and view some basic tutorials on Google’s website. Explore the Google 3D Warehouse to view a wide range of models and objects, developed by users of the software, that may be useful in your courses. Some that might be of interest include: