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It is clear now that doing 3D modeling on a computer is a great and beneficial activity for the development of the brain of our kids (very effective for adults as well!).
Autodesk alone in the sky.
Until recently, Autodesk was somehow alone in the sky with no real competition to challenge its Tinkercad web-based 3D modeling software. And Tinkercad is great. Very intuitive and simple to use. Kids love it. But being unchallenged is not very healthy in the long run. Some real adversity is good to stay sharp and give the best it can.
A real competitor is arriving on the “3D Modeling Software for Kids” market (and it is a big player!)
Many among you will know, and maybe have used, another really powerful software named Solidworks, used mostly by professionals around the globe for more than two decades. Like Fusion 360, it is awesome to do parametric modeling (you create your model following precise steps and parameters like size, shape…). As it is not at all for beginners, kids would have a hard time trying to use it to create a model of their own.
Fortunately, at Solidworks, they worked hard to develop new tools especially for kids. They choose a different path than Autodesk. Instead of a complete software with many tools immediately available right after the child is connected to a web-based software, they developed a cluster of very simple and efficient apps. For example, if you want to create a new model, you launch Shape It. In an instant, you have the ability to model something with mostly a sculpting tool. You have very few options available. It is your imagination and some virtual clay at play. Which is wonderful for beginners. You just have to learn one simple tool to have fun. The interface is very clean with just a few buttons.
Cube Print to the rescue!
And if you are happy with the result, just launch Print it. You have the choice to 3D print it if you have a 3D printer available. If you don’t have it in your backpack, don’t worry, they get you covered! They have a funny surprise for you. You can Cube Print your creation. A regular 2D printer using regular flat sheets of paper is sufficient. Once printed, you just have to cut following the outer line around the model. You use some glue to stick together the faces. And you get a nice cube made of paper with a picture of the model on each face. The front face with the front view of your model, the top face with the top view, and so on. A marvelous idea to use 2D images to see in “3D like”. Your kids will love it.
Which one is the best for your kids?
As a 3D modeling enthusiast, I love them all. But for a complete beginner, I would recommend to start with the SolidWorks Apps for Kids. It will help your kids to be at ease with a 3D model on a screen. They will be much more comfortable to do more advanced models faster than you would have dream of it. Tinkercad would be the natural next step.
Encourage your kids to play with them all. The way to create a model in 3D is different but the goal is the same: allow our children to become creative masters, to think critically, to make mistakes and learn to persevere.
The road will be long for our children and with many bumps along it. If a simple and yet so powerful activity like 3D modeling for 3D printing can help them live an interesting and engaging life and see the world in a more creative way, let’s do it!
P.S.: www.swappsforkid.com has just been released and is at the beta stage of development (the last one before the official release). Try it anyway. It is a good one. I’ll tell you when it will be at full speed and will do a complete review at the same time.