This past month I have been working hard to master my skills on the program Google Sketch-Up. The tools on Sketch-Up are very similar to those of Auto CAD which I became very familiar with last year in my freshman year of engineering. However transitioning to Sketch-Up was still a challenge that I recently found myself having to face.
In order to initiate my Sketch-Up skills I began with watching instructional videos on both Google and YouTube, all of which I found to be extremely helpful. By following the easily explained instructions of this video I was able to create simple structures such as a basic looking house, and stairs.
Although these videos did not necessarily teach me about every single tool on the toolbar, by building some of these example structures I was able to harness the basic maneuvers of Sketch-Up that when I first started, seemed peculiar compared to the CAD software I was used to. For example on Sketch-Up you can maneuver around the scene by using only the scroll wheel on the mouse and the shift key on your keyboard. You can zoom in and out of the scene with only the scroll wheel, by pushing down on the scroll wheel you can orbit around the scene, and finally by pushing down both the shift key and the scroll wheel you can pan across the face of the scene you are currently on. The biggest change I probably had to make when I began using Sketch-Up was to use both the mouse and keyboard simultaneously but once this skill was mastered, I found that you were nearly unstoppable on Sketch-Up.
This past week our engineering class also got the incredible experience of having Mariah and Matt from the Comet Camper, two people experienced in eco-friendly vintage trailer restoration, visit us and teach us about their experience and process of redoing their trailer. Matt helped all of the team members in charge of the Sketch-Up portion of our project (including myself) by showing us some of his simple and useful techniques that he had picked up on from his experience on Sketch-Up. The first two things he had us do on all of our computers was to set the screen resolution to the recommended setting (which most computers are already naturally on) by right clicking on your computer’s wall paper, selecting screen resolution and then setting the bar to recommended. Another tip Mat gave us was to maximize the amount of screen space you can actually see when using Sketch-Up (which I found to be particularly helpful when working on my laptop). To do this you can minimize the toolbar at the bottom of your computer screen by right clicking on some of the blank space on the bar, selecting properties, and then finally checking the box labeled use small icons. This will make the icons on the bar smaller and will be particularly helpful when working on Sketch-Up.
After learning these techniques along with many others I felt fully prepared to officially begin working on my actual Sketch-Up trailer model. As I mentioned before it did take me a decent amount of time to get used to the simultaneous usage of the mouse and the keyboard, but once I got into the swing of things, I seemed to be in my own little “Sketch-Up zone”. There were still many problems I ran into such as finding accurate measurements for things such as the curve of some of the trailer’s edges. Matt was also able to aid me here. He advised finding the starting and ending points of the curve and making the first measurement be the linear distance between those two points. After that find the distance from the imaginary corner that would be created if the edge was not round. Then on Sketch-Up simply cut out the remainder of the object that is outside the trailer. With this tool and some others I was well on my way to creating and finishing the exterior of the trailer. I have learned so much from just these past couple weeks on Sketch-Up so I am looking forward to what I will learn on these remaining weeks to come.