Tag Archives: Google Sketchup

Printing out 3D models of 6th grade Sketchup designs


One of the last projects of my year entailed printing out some 3D creations from the 6th grade. Catherine Hildebrandt, 6th grade math teacher, had her students build 3D shapes in Sketchpad and then measure the surface area and the volume. I wrote about her lesson in an earlier post. Next year, we may try to use Tinkercad for this project; They’ve updated their online software to include more robust measuring tools.

Each of Catherine’s three classes chose one design, and I set out to print these using our Makerbot and Bits from Bytes printers. It was a way more arduous and complicated process than I’d expected. Each Sketchpad rendering needed to be exported as an STL file. The first challenge was locating a Sketchpad STL plugin. Once I had an STL file of each shape, I used a different compiler to ultimately send printable code to each printer — ReplicatorG for the Makerbot and Axon for the the Bits From Bytes printer. To speed up the printing time, I lowered the density of each model to like 15% and scaled them down a maximum length/width/height of about 12cm.

STL (STereoLithography) is a file format native to the stereolithography CAD software created by 3D Systems. STL is also known as Standard Tessellation Language. This file format is supported by many other software packages; it is widely used for rapid prototyping and computer-aided manufacturing. STL files describe only the surface geometry of a three dimensional object without any representation of color, texture or other common CAD model attributes. (from the STL Wikipedia entry)

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Making 3D structures in SketchUp and measuring surface area in 6th math

I’m working with Catherine Hildebrandt on an activity that incorporates 3D printing into a 6th grade Geometry unit.

Catherine and her 6th graders were examining polygons, prisms, cylinders, spheres, surface area, and volume anyway. So, we thought we’d have kids design shapes, measure surface area and volume, and print out their creations on our Makerbot and Bits From Bytes 3D printers to pass around for their classmates to measure.

Catherine chose to use Google Sketchup for this project, as it is easy to construct an infinite out of shapes using the tool, and it is super easy to set the measurements/distance for lengths in the bottom right toolbox of the SketchUp window. I’d initially suggested Tinkercad, but for this project, I deferred to Catherine’s preference (especially after she spent quality time trying out each program).

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6th Grade using GoogleSketchup to design Islamic buildings based on La Alhambra.


6th grade studies Mecca for the first trimester: They read Habibi in English, learn Arabic counting games and melodies in Music, discuss The Crusades in Social Studies, construct geometric tesselations in Math, and examine the historical, political, and cultural significance of Islam in Social Studies (and throughout our integrated curriculum).

Unfortunately my Google Sketchup skills are weak, and I’m relying on the old “ask three people before you ask me” trick. I’m also modeling how to use the online help menu to answer questions. There are a couple of kids making hand-drawn models…

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