About 10 years ago, TAFE NSW carpentry teacher Graeme Wilton sat down in front of SketchUp for the first time.
“I drew a square, then made it 3D and rotated it … and I thought, bloody hell, this is marvellous!” Graeme, better know as Willo, recalls.
“Straight away I could see this could really change the way we teach.”
Fast forward to today and the carpentry faculty at the Tamworth campus of TAFE NSW has done just that – and given a skill set of old a new lease on life as carpentry students come to grips with the often tricky geometry and theory of roof framing.
“The traditional method of roof framing needs some pretty complex geometry,” Willo says.
“Over the years most students and teachers have not gotten into it and we’ve lost that traditional skill in favour of pre-made components.
“But when I saw SketchUp for the first time in 2008 I could see how it could teach this lost art without all the geometry theory that does everyone’s head in.”
Not everyone shared Willo’s enthusiasm and vision for how SketchUp could work for the faculty (“Everyone said ‘you’ll never get computers for carpentry’,” Willo recalls) but he found an ally in head teacher Grant Bowden.
“Grant was into it. He got the computers into our classroom almost a decade ago and we’ve gone from strength to strength,” Willo said.
“In the old days we’d give it our best shot in the theory stage and then go into the workshop and basically start again – every student would need guidance to get on track.
“With SketchUp we can cover the theory in 2-3 hours by drawing models of what we will build so when we get into the workshop the job’s largely done.
“That’s not to say some students don’t need help as they go along, but as they’ve created 3D models they can see what’s what, they can problem solve more easily and they know before they set foot in the workshop if their design is going to work in real life or not.
“We also do construction sequences so they can work out in what order to build – and how it will work.”
Willo said SketchUp also meant students could tackle projects previously out of reach.
“We are now not constrained by physical resources,” Willo said.
“Our students can create large roofing projects in 3D that we could never do in real life because we don’t have the room or the materials.
“It’s a huge advantage.
“The thing is, if you work in simulation, good simulation, it makes it real.
“I say to people; the RAAF doesn’t put its new pilots straight into an F/A18 – they use simulators. So does Qantas with its pilots – no-one flies an A380 straight out of school.
“It is the same for our students. They can build it in SketchUp and get the experience and skills – and know they can do it in real life too.”
Willo said having a local contact for SketchUp had made a big difference to the team.
“In the past we were dealing with Trimble in the US, he said. It is great having a local company in BuildingPoint for the purchase and maintenance of our SketchUp licences and for the on-going support that we desperately need.
“Just having someone who can work in metres and millimetres rather than feet and inches is a real bonus and I can’t overstate the value of being in the same time zone when you need help in a hurry.
“SketchUp in Australia is the icing on the 3D modelling cake.”