Now in Google Earth: Sketchup for math in Middle School - 2

Hi, I'm a math teacher in Florence, Italy, Middle School.

For the second time I've been using Sketchup with 13-year-old students
to introduce and work with solids. (See first time).

For the final animation this time I used SketchyPhysics in order to make the cars drawn by students, run, jump, hit each other ...

I want to share the result since I think it is quite nice:

[Edit] This is the new version: sped up is much better!

(You may watch it in HD on youtube).

With this class I worked 8 weeks (1 our a week with sketchup).
All the the model were made by the students, even the blue convertible.
The only thing I added, since they repeadetely required it, are the shock absorbers for the monster truck.

Comments are really wellcome and appreciated.

[Edit] Now in Google Earth

I coudln't resist and I made the students' cars work inside Google Earth.
I did not write the code (it was written by someone at Google),
I only changed it to make it work with the students cars.

Accept to install the plugin if required, it's great fun ...

Drive your car in Google Earth

hope you like it.

Making the cars work in google earth is not related to the work on solids that
led to drawing the cars and I didnt allow the students to try the plugin at school.
However, seeing this kind of possibilities activated the students' imagination,
interest and attention in the whole subject.

Tags: animation, math, physics, sketchup, sketchyphysics, solids, video, youtube

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All models drawn by the students are available in Google 3D Warehouse.
I forgot to mention that also the final model with the ramp is available for download,
with all Sketchyphysics stuff: here
Check this guy out---he has given me a whole new perspective on Sketchup!! Be sure to glance at every link in the right hand margin, you will be agog!!

Thanks for the link Nancy.
I actually did know the works of Fred Bartels, they, as you said, give a whole new perspective on Sketchup.
However I wouldn't know how to use his ideas for my porpouses: math in middlle school.
Thanks anyway.
I don't use it either but even his house plans and room designs are phenomenal, I bet designing a new bedroom could be a math thingy! Later N
Nancy, thanks for the shout out.

Guzman, I really like your car project. I forwarded information about it to our LS and MS computer teachers. I've tried for years to get math teachers in my school to try SketchUp but without much luck. Can you share what math concepts you are finding SketchUp helpful in developing?

I use SketchUp frequently in my programming classes. An example of how can be seen in some of the videos on this site: I would think some math concepts could be presented effectively with SketchUp.

Another idea for math teaching came from SketchUp but involves pipe cleaners and straws. SketchUp supports curves using what are known as TINs (Triangular Irregular Networks).

You can see some images of pipe cleaner/straw structures here. I think kids would have fun making these and it might get them thinking along some new directions.

I've been trying for years to get someone to create a building toy using TINs, but, like with the Math teachers, without much luck. :-(

Guzman, please keep sharing your great work with SketchUp! Eventually more math teachers will wake up to the possibilities.

Fred, thank you very much for your detailed and very interesting comment.
I did know your great design and artistic works with sktetchup but I didnt know your interest for math. (Thanks Nancy, you were right).

About teaching math and Sketchup I wrote some notes some time ago.

Here are some simple math models made by my students (in the 4th or 5th lesson)

About pipe cleaners and straws: here's me and my class building polyhedrons with pipe cleaners and ... (not very good quality, but gives the idea).

About a building toy, do you know Zometool ? I have it and I find it really interesting.

I agree with you, there are lots of possibilities for using Sketchup in teaching math.


Following the suggestions of many
I uploaded and a new sped up version of the video which I find actually better.
Hey Guzman,

Thanks so much for the notes on the benefits of teaching math with SketchUp. They are very helpful.

I do know about Zometool. In fact, I tried to convince them to develop the TIN toy idea. The owner was kind enough to talk with me but he was not interested and was quite discouraging about how difficult it is to bring a new building toy to the market. I purchased a Zometool kit and gave it to our math department. As far as I know they have never used it.

My only issue with Zometools is that you are limited to the angles built into the hub connectors.

Our LS computer teacher is very interested in doing more with SketchUp and I've enouraged him to take a look at the very impressive work you are doing.

You are inspiring many of us!


PS I spent a semester in Florence when an undergraduate student. I had a wonderful time and I developed a real love of your beautiful city.
I'm glad my notes may come helpful. I think there is a lot of work that can be done.

"My only issue with Zometools is that you are limited to the angles built into the hub connectors"

That's actually a big constraint and your idea seems an interesting solution.

"I purchased a Zometool kit and gave it to our math department. As far as I know they have never used it"

:( It's sad how normal this is in schools.

And ...

YOU are really inspiring. Thanks.

(the best comment I reiceived in the 3D warehouse was "this is model is as good as one by Fred Bartels", of course that only happened once)

PS: I'm starting to realize how lucky I am, living in Florence. When you live here, you tend to forget it.
I agree that Blender might be a little advanced for most middle school schoolers. Sketchup, on the other hand, is in my view well within the reach of sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
My son began using blender at age 12 and uses it weekly still at age 14 (he will be 15 in two weeks). It has a pretty steep learning curve, but it can do some pretty amazing stuff. It has been used to make full-length animated movies (see Elephant's Dream).

Sketchup would definitely be easier to learn. I have used Sketch up for my Biomysteries and Chemysteries that I make for the kids. You can get some pretty decent props and characters without a huge time investment. There is a large selection of ready-made, free to use Sketchup objects that can be downloaded and used as well. You can find many authentic buildings that really exist in cities around the world which can make it really fun when you want a setting in a real city.
If you want to look more deeply at Blender, I recommend poking around at I am using a link that will bring you in to the gallery section so you can see right away what types of things the kids can accomplish with some experience. There is a tutorial section too. Blender is open source and free.



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