At the end of our one week camp we introduce Tinkercad, a free online program, to introduce the students to 3D modeling. CAD software stands for Computer-Aided Design and is used by engineers, designers, and artists in the professional world. Tinkercad has an easy to use interface and is designed to teach 3D digital design for printing. Our lesson begins with getting the students to identify simple base shapes within complicated objects. Tinkercad has an index of basic shapes that are similar to the shapes we learn about for building inflatables.
After learning how to perform basic actions in the program, the students are free to start tinkering and creating objects. Students can break down the object they want to make into simpler shapes, like making a bed out of a rectangular cube and a pillow out of a half cylinder (or round roof as Tinkercad calls it). A piece of broccoli is formed with a base cylinder and a cluster of spheres on top. The possibilities are endless, and the students are free to be creative. However, it can still be quite difficult to think three dimensionally. A face that might seem perfectly aligned at one angle could, at a different angle, actually be floating shapes that are far apart from each other. Designing in Tinkercad requires awareness of space and the ability to constantly be rotating and viewing the design at all angles. Since we are viewing our 3D design on a 2D screen, it can be difficult to remember the space around, behind, above, and below the object. Despite the challenge, the students are able to push through and create complicated and well designed objects that can later be 3D printed.