17 April 2014

Supersize the Floorplan Area Project

Designing a floor plan to have students calculate and study area is pretty standard fare for a high school Geometry course, but the further we get into the CAD-era of drafting, the further it gets from relevance.

The only way I've ever seen this done is on grid poster board or with grid paper. It's good for modeling how someone might draft up an informal plan at the kitchen table or your workbench, but its completely unlike what "real" architects, engineers, and designers do at their desks. Your students might get some exposure in the career and technical ed department with the heavy tools from Autodesk, but there's no reason you can't get everyone a quick exposure from these free tools.

Google SketchUp

My students are in the middle of a project right now designing a water park for a fictitious town in southwest Missouri using SketchUp to lay out the 2D geometry, pulling up into 3D shapes, wrapping it with colors or images, and adding dimensions. You can add some pizzazz to your plan from the extensive 3D warehouse gallery of items contributed by SketchUp users.

I'm not mandating this for our purposes, but you can also add any text you want for identifying parts.

When you're done you can export your SketchUp to 3D printers or as images to be embedded anywhere else on the web.

How to get it:
SketchUp is available for download here for your personal use, but its software, so you'll have to wait for someone with admin privileges to install it for you at school. (I always hate coordinating this, so I stay away from locally installed apps whenever possible).

You can also run it with a browser plug-in from this link. I haven't tested that yet, but I imagine it might get slow at times. On the positive side, your students will be able to use it at home without having to install it on their own.

Autodesk Homestyler

Homestyler is marketed directly toward consumers wishing to design for their personal home or office. Therefore, there's less to offer to the "power" user, but its easier to pick up and use for your students that might be wary toward the technology aspect of your redesigned project.
My favorite parts of Homestyler:
  • When adding doors/windows/appliances to your model, beyond the generic options are brand name designs that you could specifically purchase at your favorite home improvement warehouse. 
    • Adding a budget or cost layer to your project because as simple as keeping a window open to homedepot.com or lowes.com
  • Exporting images AND interactive walkthroughs 
    • Users have a choice of several nature backdrops to have peeking behind any windows, and can even choose a setting to have the sun shine through. The point is to get a better feel for how a paint color would look in the afternoon sun of your actual home, but for your students' fake floor plans, it just adds an extra pop.
How to get it:
Not only is Homestyler free, but its also a web app, which means all your students need is the url to finish on their own at home. Launch the web app here. (requires Adobe Flash)

CONFUSION WARNING: There is also a Homestyler app in the iOS app store that has a completely different interface and functionality. The app directs the user to take a picture of the room they want to style and then add elements layered onto the image of that space. From a consumer standpoint, its a lot simpler than having to measure and layout your space like you do on the web app, but for the purposes of your floor plan area project, its useless.

Honorable Mention: Free, online tools that may also work for your project

RoomSketcher - looks a lot like Homestyler

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Thanks for sharing!