Learning More About Sketchup

Sunday, May 07, 2006

starting points for learning more about sketchup

Google's recently released Sketchup software will unleash a torrent of new 3D creative expression. By distributing this software for free, literally millions more youth and adults will be able to dabble and develop skill at expressing their ideas in 3D.

The hardware requirements for this software are also not very steep. You can buy a Pentium 3 (733 MHz) computer for $75 these days from PC Retro and other mail-order companies. Admittedly, this computer comes without an operating system. But Microsoft Authorized Refurbishers often distribute computers with Windows 2000 for a $5 licensing fee.
A Microsoft Authorized refurbisher in the Washington DC-area is Project Reboot, in Rockville, part of the Capital PC User Group.

This begs the question of whether a version of SketchUp for Linux is in the works. It would be sweet to buy a $75 computer that runs OpenOffice 2.x, Firefox, Sketchup, Nvu, Audacity, BitTorrent -- along with all the other excellent software available for Linux.

In terms of learning about SketchUp, here are some ideas for getting you started:

There are some excellent narrated Flash tutorials about SketchUp on the web site of the company that orginally designed SketchUp. There are some introductory video tutorials to SketchUp on Google's SketchUp site. The SketchUp Googlegroup is a place to ask questions and learn from other SketchUp users. Yes, you can follow the message traffic on this list without subscribing to the list. Just subscribe to any of these rss feeds using Bloglines or your favorite rss reader.

You might want to check with a computer user group in your area to see if they plan any presentations about SketchUp. One place to find computer user groups is the user group locator section on the Association of Personal Computer User Groups web site. A more complete listing of Apple user groups can be found on the Apple web site. I'm particularly fond of the Macintosh User Group Resource Site and the accompanying email lists for this site. If you're looking to buy a second-hand Mac, nothing is better than the list of second-hand Mac deals on the LowEndMac web site. (DealMac is an very useful resource, too.)

If your local public library offers free computer classes, ask the coordinator of these classes if they can include some free classes on SketchUp. Where can you find volunteer instructors for such classes? There might be some architects or architect students who would be interested in teaching classes in how to use SketchUp. You can find talented designers many other places, including high school classes for technical drawing and pre-engineering drawing. Any school of 3D animation and design may have students who might volunteer (or be paid) to teach workshops on SketchUp. Search the good god Google for 3D animation to find other 3D software, organizations, training resources.

Another possible resource for learning about SketchUp are community technology centers -- locations in communities around the world where technology training is provided for free or low-cost. An excellent list of community technology centers in the United States can be found on the web site Community Technology Centers' Network. CTCNet has some international members, too. And it's useful to note that outside of the United States, community technology centers are often referred to as telecentres. For example, here is a list of telecentres in Western Australia.

Contact the community technology center (or telecentre) in your area and ask if they offer classes or workshops on SketchUp. If you have developed some skill at using SketchUp, offer to teach a class or workshop at these centers.

For staying up to date with new SketchUp training resources, sign up for the SketchUp newsletter on the Google web site and follow the rss feed for the SketchUp tag on del.icio.us. A convenient way of following this feed is by adding this rss feed to your Bloglines account.

I'm expecting some excellent SketchUp books or rich media trainings might be coming from O'Reilly. Whole sections of my brain have been filled by knowledge that O'Reilly poured in. The O'Reilly tag is probably the most common tag on most of my brain neurons.

Do you need some ideas for some fun SketchUp projects to work on with your friends? How about designing the ideal school building that you'd like to attend? The ideal college campus? The ideal public library? The ideal apartment building? The ideal conference center? The ideal home? (Mine will have 10 different playrooms.)

For those of you more seriously interested in learning Sketchup Pro 5 (the $500, commercial version of SketchUp), you can take instructor led online courses in basic and intermediate SketchUp at sessions.edu for $259 per class. "Each course will take approximately 15 hours to complete and you are given three months to work through the lessons and exercises. The courses involve submitting assigned projects to your instructor for asynchronous and iterative feedback."

Let your imagination run free. Develop some skills with 3D as you do so. Then teach your skills to the rest of us. Share your ideas freely, share your skills freely, contribute to the common wealth.

Thank you, Google. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Phil Shapiro
The author is an educator and technology access activist in the Washington DC-area. He works as a public geek in a 28-station Linux computer center at the Takoma Park Maryland Library, helping youth and adults in this community get what they want done.

If you would like to participate in an ongoing discussion (and sharing of resources) regarding technology access issues, the Digital Divide Network email list is where a lot of such discussions take place.

You've probably never heard of the Digital Divide Network, because the New York Times and other mainstream media have conveniently declared the digital divide is no longer an issue. We must expect more of the media. Much more. If we don't, they'll feed us similar drivel.

It's time to join hands to get some work done, rather than publish celebratory articles when this needed work has just begun.

My blog.



SketchUp Resources Added After this Article was Written


University of Liverpool, School of Architecture SketchUp Tutorials

The SketchUp 5 Book

3D Construction Modeling

Designing With SketchUp Infowiki (Fred Bartels - RCDS)

SketchUp Pro Donated to Every Middle School Student in Maine

Google Sketchup Mac Reviewed on Doc-u-motion