How an Australian Carpentry Teacher Uses SketchUp to Create a Learning Program for his Students

In the Skills Training Industry, the use of 3D modeling software forms an important part of a skillset that can be applied in many vocational courses and a large number of technical industries. From interior design to carpentry, SketchUp offers both students and teachers alike the tools to traverse from concepts into designs, to bloom visuals from ideas.

With its wide range of applications, SketchUp has been used by many teachers and trainers in the education and skills training industry as an invaluable tool to prepare and deliver their courses. We spoke with Trevor Dale, who has been working as a Carpentry Trainer and Assessor at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) for almost two years, about his recent experience when he was able to put his SketchUp skills to good use.

Trevor was involved in a project to build and implement a new online training program for carpentry on a Learning Management System. As a self-confessed SketchUp Ninja, Trevor was able to make significant contributions to this initiative that was required to be implemented as a new carpentry training package by the second semester in 2022.

As Trevor began to describe his project, it became apparent that this was no small task, requiring careful planning and a lot of teamwork.

Separated into six learning blocks, the training program increases in complexity and intensity as the apprenticeship progresses. It starts with a simple project where the students learn how to read plans, then how to build a wall frame, cut a roof, work out quantities and material orders.

He related how the ability to use and embed SketchUp models, including a QR code for viewing the models within the Trimble Augmented Reality, was extremely useful to the project.  The SketchUp visuals became the main visual learning element for the trainers to show and instruct project information to their learners.

For this project, Trevor working with the other trainers, created several models using SketchUp and used them as main visuals to deliver project instructions to the learners. Hanson’s Lodge, a main SketchUp model created by Trevor with valuable input from his team members, has been used to help students understand how to collaborate with the other trades such as Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP), Ceramic Tiling and Glazing. In addition, the team planned to add a full joinery detail so that the model can even run on their CNC machine.

Despite the challenges and the increased workload of incorporating all the materials into the Learning Management System, the team was well on its way to achieving its goals. Through this project, Trevor has successfully built a SketchUp culture at Bruce TAFE  where his fellow trainers were keen to master their SketchUp skills and become SketchUp Ninjas themselves. SketchUp was even used to develop detailed cabinet making demonstrating the various woodwork joints, the x-ray viewing tools and real-life material applications.

The trainers were especially excited with the Augmented and Virtual Reality technology where during a Trimble demo, the students were able to have a visual walk through within a complex roof or frame and figuring out each part of the structure. Such capabilities provided a level of clarity to the students that would have been difficult to achieve by trainers with explanations alone. (Author’s note: SketchUp models are compatible with Trimble Mixed reality software, e.g. Connect AR).

All the efforts that were put into the project including creating the SketchUp models and Layout plans have paid off for Trevor and his team, who have been receiving positive feedback from students and trainers alike.

“It is very satisfying to hear from a student or a trainer on how the SketchUp models and plans from Layout have benefited them. I currently teach Block One carpentry, and now the ability to start explaining to my students the value of understanding the project from the get-go, has helped me greatly,” Trevor said.

Talking to one of his fellow trainers who teaches roof-cutting in the Institute, Trevor heard how the SketchUp 3D models and plan sets were extremely useful and valuable to the students in helping them overcome the difficulty of grasping the measurements and mathematical complexities of their designs, and ultimately understanding the subject as a whole.

We are glad that SketchUp was able to play a part in CIT’s Carpentry learning program, helping Trevor and his team create a new training package by bringing more learning opportunities to their students and adding more values to their learning experience.

Article by Amos Soo


Many thanks to Trevor Dale from CIT for being so generous in sharing his insights and thoughts about his project.

All illustrations in this article are supplied by CIT