Fred Bartels: A true SketchUp Renaissance Man

A longtime member of the SketchUp community, Fred Bartels is an educator, builder, artist, and maker. Influenced by Seymour Papert and other education visionaries, Bartels saw a promising future for SketchUp in the classroom. Seventeen years after first introducing SketchUp to his students, Bartels continues to push the boundaries of SketchUp and he’s hopeful that the educators of tomorrow will do the same.

Fred, you’ve been a part of the SketchUp community for a long time. Where do you think your 3D modeling story begins?

I spent most of my career teaching computer programming classes and providing IT support to K-12 schools. But as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in art and architecture. I took some art and photography courses in high school, but felt I didn’t have the talent to pursue art as a profession. I continued to produce art, mostly abstract and play with house designs as a hobby. I always kept sketchbooks and used those as an outlet for design ideas.

When computers and 3D design software tools became available to schools, I started teaching a CAD/architecture course using these softwares. The first few years I used a program called VectorWorks, but the program was so clunky and unintuitive that it hardly encouraged creativity. When I discovered SketchUp at MacWorld 2002, I never looked back.

No stranger to thought-provoking design, Fred Bartels found a home for his abstract creations in SketchUp.

You were introduced to SketchUp in the early days! What made you try using it in the classroom?

I realised that SketchUp allowed students to focus more on their design ideas rather than learning how to use the tool itself. As you would expect, we introduced SketchUp to our design classes, but we also experimented with using SketchUp in math, science, language, and history classes. Ultimately, our students loved using SketchUp and a few went on to do impressive work with the program. One of these students, Andrew Nathanson, was invited to the SketchUp 3D Basecamp 2008 to present his exceptional design work, and more generally share about the use of SketchUp in a K-12 environment.

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