Case Study – Using SketchUp and Rendering in a Middle School

James Laub – Technology Teacher at Washington Middle School in Long Beach Unified School District uses SketchUp and Rendering for classes. Here are his notes: 

When I first started teaching SketchUp to new students in semester 1, I introduced the whole tool set, then asked them to build a two story house which had to be 100% original and include no components other than doors and/or windows.  They were given four weeks to complete this assignment.

Next, I started teaching some Interior Design and asked the students to create at least two rooms typically found in a home, complete with all the details one would normally expect to see there.  The ideas the students came up with for this project were so good, they inspired me to expand it in the following way.

Last year, I thought we would design rooms, yards or landscaping for people who were interested in remodeling or doing something new with an existing space.  Now, I thought, why not apply this to the real world?!

I took this proposition to my fellow faculty members, and asked if any teacher was about to embark on a remodel inside and/or install new landscaping outside of their house; then, I suggested that we could have the students take a shot at coming up with SketchUp models for their renovations.  Three teachers immediately came to me saying they would love to do this.  So, I invited each teacher to come to my class to share their likes and dislikes regarding colors, lighting, furniture styles, trees and shrubbery, etc.

The students were then charged with creating three designs for interiors and/or exteriors.  They came up with some amazing things: two back yards, two front yards, a kitchen, a dining room and a bed-bath combo.

I’ve included a link here where you can view a sampling of my students’ work on these three teachers’ projects.  These are also on my Google drive, but there are too many to put here.  You will see samples of the two story houses, plus the bedroom, bath and kitchen models.

The second link is to a website I built to showcase the yard we designed for one of the teachers where you will see five periods listed and about 100 versions of the students’ work.  You will see that their designs run the gamut from just OK to absolutely fantastic.

In this project, the teacher is the client who comes to meet the student contractors and the students deliver their models via the website – just as this process is conducted in the real world.

My next step is to take this idea to Cal State Long Beach University where they offer a degree in Interior Design and propose to that department a partnership wherein some of their students in the program come to my school (5 miles away) and teach a few basics of Interior Design.  Just a few one hour sessions would go a long way.  That is in the pipeline……

The overall goal of this is to start a partnership with the community and run what would be similar to a small business with people coming into our school and having our students perform their services just like they did for the teachers on my staff. It can be ongoing year after year and as we get more people from outside the school. This will go a long way to teach students how a real business works in real time. This is no longer a textbook exercise but actual real world application.

We used Kerkythea for a while but recently decided to switch to IRender nXt because of its ease of use, better rendering results, and lots of powerful features which will make it easier for our students to create great renderings.

I would be interested to hear any comments on how to spread the word in the community to get prospective “clients” for our students. Please add a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions.


This first link, a sampling of all the projects listed above.

Here are a couple of examples from this link. These first two images, with lights, were rendered with Kerkythea.



bed 3

Here is this same scene rendered with IRender nXt


Notice the effects of Indirect Reflected Lighting, and Auto Reflection which automatically make some materials, like the wood floor reflective.

Backyard Design

This second link is to Ms. Ochoa’s (teacher in my school) request for a backyard design and the website features all student responses.

Link 2 – Ms. Ochoa’s backyard design Project

Here is an example of one of those renderings.



Here is another example rendered with IRender nXt.



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