Google Sketchup and Google Earth

One of the simplest 3D graphics programs is Google Sketchup - you will need to sign up with Google to get the program. This is free to download from Google at :

This comes in two versions – a free and a more advanced (and expensive) commercial product.

The beauty of Sketchup is that you can save your models to the Google Warehouse and share them with other users or even put them into Google Earth

( or convert them into other file formats that can be imported/ exported to other manipulation programs.

You need to sign up with the Google Earth service.

You could download a copy of a Maserati and place it outside your house for example.

image source Leon Cych

image source Leon Cych

So collaborative working from school to home and back again can be done if you have a gmail or school Google Docs account.

From the very start Google Sketchup offers you a series of animated tutorials or walkthroughs in the program itself and online to get you started quickly and easily.

image source Leon Cych

2D Picture format export

It exports 2D files into JPG, PNG or TIFF files which can be used in most paint and graphics packages or on the web.

image source Leon Cych

3D Model export files

The 3D files it saves to the **.KMZ** (Keyhole Markup Language Zipped) format for using in Google Earth. The Expensive professional version has more export options.

Using Sketchup models in other programs

This can be a problem if you want to use the 3D models you have made in other programs but there are a few workarounds.

Essentially a .KMZ file is a geographical data wrapper or envelope around a more common Collada **.DAE**(Digital Asset Exchange) file which can be imported into most other 3D Graphics programs.

image source Leon Cych

If you have an unzipping program like Winzip or 7-Zip (go to for many other OSS alternatives) you can strip away the .KMZ wrapper and save the .DAE file inside. Think of it like a squirrel gnawing at the outside shell of a nut to get at the kernel within. The ,KMZ is really a compressed geographical data file situating where the model data .DAE should be placed. But I prefer the Squirrel / nut idea.

You can then import this into most other packages mentioned below and re-export it in another format for different projects. Or for more detailed instructions to do even more with Sketchup with Meshlab to reconvert the files you can read a hack here.

It's not illegal to do this – you are merely reconverting the files but please be sure to attribute all mention of who made the model and where when using it in your projects.

SketchUp + Google Earth

Using Sketchup and Google Earth together you can put models directly into Google Earth and share them with your friends but only if you upload them to the Google Earth Warehouse and, again, don't forget to attribute any you might have copied. Have fun.

You will need to sign up with Google to use Google Sketchup and Google Earth.

Google Sketchup Video Tutorials

Google Warehouse Resources

Google Earth

Google Sketchup and Virtual Reality

This is not an Open Source product but it's interesting to see how you could take sketchup program and use a plugin and web cam to produce Augmented Reality videos – see the video at the end of the page link :

People are working on OS equivalents of this – see the links at the end of this whole article on Augmented Reality.

Google Sketchup models in your own Open Source Virtual World

As well as being able to put Google Sketchup models in Google Earth you can go one better and put them into your own free Virtual World.

As you can see in the video above Edusim is a simple but very interactive and compelling Virtual World platform that allows you create and interact with 3D objects created inworld or imported from Sketchup.

You can build a virtual museum in minutes and what is more you can have users interact with each other by text and voice in there as well. The ultimate collaborative space for working with learners.

Edusim and Sketchup

Edusim is an amazing Open Source world based on the Cobalt.

You can install it on your laptop or network and have multiple users. It can be also be used on whiteboards for multiple users to interact with.

It's very intuitive and can be locked down to your own network within a school and you can use it do stuff like this:

Most of the models in that video have been imported from Google Sketchup into Edusim and there is a simple paint package in the program that allows you to write and draw 3D objects which can be dragged straight into the virtual world.

Edusim is an ongoing development with a browser edition coming out soon. It has none of the drawbacks of security issues associated with Second Life and it is purely Open Source.

If you want a free and compelling resource that is going to engage your students the combination of Edusim and Sketchup are great starting points for an introduction to virtual worlds.

Eudsim Video Tutorials

Google Sketchup Resources for Education

Tutorials and Walkthroughs

Video Tutorials

Professional Sketchup Resources

Free PDFs of ideas and activities can be downloaded from here: