Intro to 3D Modeling, a one-semester course about 60 hours in length, should be great for high school students as well as adults. It might be one of the most practical courses a student might take even though it fits into the electives category. Consider it a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) course that helps students prepare for the modern work world.
Intro to 3D Modeling teaches students how to create computerized models in three dimensions that can be used for both visual communication and the actual design of products. Along the way, instructor Dave Sutherland also encourages students to develop positive attitudes, strong work ethics, and ethical practices.
Sutherland begins the course with an explanation of his own background as a spatial designer and how he has leveraged the many disciplines of 3D modeling on real-world projects. He briefly explores the history of design through some ancient historical examples, moving up through the development of computer graphics. He encourages students to consider careers in various areas—architecture, engineering, movies, etc.
The course quickly moves beyond the general to specific knowledge and skills. Students learn about 3D meshes, the difference between organic and hard-surface objects, polygonal models, sculpting, and basic concepts of building in 3D.
While this isn’t a math-based course, the type of modeling taught is obviously based on geometry. Because of this, Sutherland discusses the role of two- and three-dimensional coordinate grids, vertices, points, faces, triangles, the degrees in the angles of triangles, and other concepts from geometry. So it is helpful if students are already somewhat familiar with basic concepts of geometry. In one assignment, Sutherland requires students to measure the angles of a household object with a protractor, so students need to at least know how to do that. Nevertheless, the little math used in the course is not likely to overwhelm any student since most of the actual math is done by the computer program that will be introduced.
Throughout the course students will also need a notebook, basic drawing supplies, colored pencils or crayons, and clay or Play-dough. Students need to take notes as they watch each video. Points raised in the videos are often incorporated into assignments or tested on quizzes.
Assignments vary from lesson to lesson. The aforementioned measuring assignment is just one example. Assignments often direct students to write definitions of terms they have just learned. Other assignments might direct them to research and write about a person or concept, do simple sculpting, do some sketching, or create a paper model of a building from printable templates. Students will create a model of their own as a final project. The final project can actually be printed through a 3D printing service.
Students transition to use of the computer to create models in the ninth week of the course. Students will use the SketchUp MAKE free software program. Assignments at that point shift toward more use of SketchUp.
Students will learn a great deal about what can be done in the world of 3D modeling as they begin to experiment with tools and techniques in this introductory course.
The course is entirely online, and students subscribe for $20 per month. The course consists of 52 lessons, and students should plan to complete three per week to finish in one semester. Through the first half of the course, videos run about eight to ten minutes each, but once students start working in SketchUp, some videos run longer, up to about 30 minutes for a few of them. Assignments also become more time consuming as students work with the program. (I can envision some students working for hours as they get into this!)
Students can complete most of the course working independently. However, parents will grade student quizzes and evaluate other assignments off of the computer. Parent resources are printable PDF documents and forms. These include rubrics and answer keys, a syllabus and a list of the assignments for each lesson so parents can be aware of what students should be accomplishing, a “gradebook” page for recording scores, and a glossary of terms used in the course for which students are accountable. Quizzes are printable PDF documents, and each quiz has five true/false or multiple choice questions.
Students need to work on a fairly current computer. Check the technical requirements before purchasing the course.
Intro to 3D Modeling seems to me a great course for getting students excited about practical uses for technology. Having students both learn the skills and then actually create their own unique 3D model has the potential to open up new ideas and goals for college and careers.