Admit It, You Nerd - SketchUp 3D Basecamp 2018

So there’s a little-known fact about me, one that I finally admitted to myself when I first really started designing homes.

I’m a nerd.

I think my close friends have known about my condition for quite some time. When I finally admitted it to Shannon for the first time, she gave me a warm pat on the shoulder and said gently, “I know, babe. I know.”

In that moment I think I was really just admitting it to myself. This “coming out” as it were was a really big step for me. So then some questions started popping up: What happens next? Where do I go from here? How did a skateboarding, surfing, sailing, backflipping, snowboard instructing, woodworking home builder end up this way? Then it dawned on me.

My nerdiness and love for technology can enhance what I love to do tremendously. All of my ideas for a design now start with a 3D model. Want to design a house? Model it. Idea for a skateboard shape? Model it. Want to make a cutting board? MODEL IT. There’s a very unique blend of creativity and nerdiness there that I never thought possible. Computers and the programs within them (in my case, SketchUp), have enhanced my creativity to the point where I feel confident I can develop an idea quickly and efficiently using this program. It has changed the way we do business, and in effect has changed my life. When I first started, I knew SketchUp would take me places. Then I heard about 3D Basecamp.

Sketchup did an awesome job with the decor

Sketchup did an awesome job with the decor

Holy shit. Where to begin.

If I had to put it in a sentence, it would go something like this. 3D Basecamp is a conference where SketchUp users of all backgrounds get together to learn more about the program, each other, and most importantly for me : the things that are possible with SketchUp. The creativity was palpable. At its heart, SketchUp is made for architecture. I knew that. But what I didn’t know is that people use SketchUp for most anything you can imagine. Engineers. Interior Designers. Artists. Educators. Woodworkers. The list goes on. Almost 1800 creative professionals attended this year’s Basecamp in Palm Desert, California. If you have a even a modicum of creativity in your body, you can imagine the excitement of being surrounded by that amount of imagination.

So here’s the run-down. This week-long conference consisted of 5 days of seminars, workshops, and presentations, each one more valuable than the last. On average I was able to take 4 workshops per day, with breakfast, lunch, and snacks provided in between. (Shout out to the Palm Desert Marriott, the service and food was incredible).

Besides the actual learning itself, I met TONS of people eager to share what they knew and gather whatever tidbits of information from me that they could. A quick shout out to Alex, Allen, Alice, Chris, Daniel, Dorte, Eitan, Eric, Emily, Jeff, Keith, Larry, Lang, Lance, Lourenço, Matt, Mia, Michael, Sarah, Steve, Yoni, and Zack. I have never met a group of people more eager to share ideas and gather information. These people were genuinely interested in what I do and how I do it. I think the honesty and raw conversations with everyone there is a rare find in the world, and I am grateful to have experienced my time here with them.

The People of BaseCamp

Allen, Lang, and eitan

Allen, Lang, and eitan

The first person I met here was a guy from Israel named Eitan. This dude posted on the Basecamp app (which was awesome, by the way. Leave it to the people at a software conference to have a badass app, am I right?) that he had a car and would be available to give people a ride from the airport to the hotel, about a 30 minute drive. He ended up saving 3 other Basecampers and me about 30 bucks on an Uber. Such a nice guy. Later in the week, I ended up going with Eitan and another guy, Jeff, to Joshua Tree national park for the day, but I’ll talk about that later. Eitan’s got a big heart and I had a blast getting to know him.

The next person I connected with was Sarah. Sarah works for a pharmacy in Pennsylvania laying out floor plans for different equipment related to lab applications. She’s apparently a badass because she went for runs and bike rides the entire time she was here, and that means in 100+ degree heat (I am not exaggerating, I literally burned myself touching the wrong outdoor fixtures and concrete).

We clicked because of our mutual general awe of what’s possible in SketchUp. Sarah is able to create a detailed floor plan of her different pharmaceutical machines, which gives her clients a sense of workflow and scale. Mobility is very important in a workspace, and sometimes you just can’t convey that effectively with a floor plan. We had a great time playing cornhole, discussing SketchUp, and sharing a very nice bottle of wine at a very nice restaurant in Palm Desert (which neither of us really wanted or paid for, but it was a great experience! Shout out to Keith for his generosity! I can’t wait to see where she goes in her SketchUp career. If her character is any indication of her drive, I think she’ll be very successful.

Speaking of Keith, he may have been one of the single most influential people I met here. Keith is into fine cabinetry and wood processing, and he automates everything. “Automate everything,” he says. “My CNC never calls in sick, never has a bad day, and doesn’t require workman’s comp insurance.” That really stuck for me.

Of course, everyone has different ways to automate what they do. I’ll admit that cabinet parts are much different than a SIPs wall, but with a little creativity and determination, I believe we can implement automation in ways that will greatly increase our accuracy and productivity. I’ve got some ideas in the works, but nothing so solid that I can talk about it here with any idea of what I’m talking about. Anyway, thanks Keith. Your ideas and accomplishments were inspirational to say the least.

Another couple of awesome guys I met here were Allen and Lang, who were teachers from right here in California. Allen reminded me of the Dos Equis guy, otherwise known as “the most interesting man in the world.” I met people who spoke Hebrew, Spanish, Danish, and French. Luckily for me, all of those people spoke English very well. Allen would notice someone’s accent, ask where they were from, and then proceed to have a conversation in whatever language they were familiar with. It was awesome to see peoples’ faces light up when he spoke in their native tongue. Couple his multilingual capabilities with his warm smile, beautiful grey mustache and seemingly endless wardrobe of Tommy Bahama shirts, Allen was a great guy to be around.

Lang was a great guy as well. He and I wreaked havoc on the shuffleboard table at the glow party, which may be the hardest game ever invented. Lang also told us about Joshua Tree national park, which we ended up visiting. His knowledge of the not-so-secret southern entrance saved us an admission fee to the park, and I’m really glad we took his advice and just went. I’m going to need to write a separate post on that experience, which was possibly the highlight of my time here.

Alice, Dorte, and Mia were the Danes. These girls were my impromptu breakfast buddies, and they were all beautiful inside and out. They told me that yes, everyone in Denmark were in fact blondes, and that yes, it was beautiful there. They also introduced me to the work of Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect who has created some pretty amazing buildings. One of those buildings was a trash recycling facility that also serves as a ski slope. I was told it was very flat in Denmark, so an improvised ski slope seemed like a great idea.

IMAGE © 2018 BIG ARCHITECTURE

IMAGE © 2018 BIG ARCHITECTURE

There are tons more people worth mentioning, like Matt the badass architect from D.C., who had the longest dreadlocks I had seen and the most organized SketchUp models as well. He also took his longboard everywhere he went, which was cool. Alex was a mechanical engineer who gave me a crash course in creating dynamic components one day at breakfast. Those are going to prove very useful when creating doors and windows in my models, not to mention decks, deck rails, stair systems, and anything else with repeating characteristics. What a guy. I know I am leaving some people out, but suffice to say I made some awesome connections with some truly talented and creative people.

The Experience of BaseCamp

If there is anyone even remotely interested in SketchUp or 3D modeling in general, I would highly recommend coming to BaseCamp. The conference is a week-long experience, and the connections you can make with the instructors and attendees alike are worth it alone. I was impressed from the moment I walked through the doors. Big, pastel colors of teal and light pink and simple cartoon pictures was the signature style of BaseCamp Palm Springs 2018. Everything was extremely well organized, and the BaseCamp app kept everything simple and in one place. I hardly ever needed to ask anyone for assistance. Everything was right there on the app!

As you might have guessed, social events are a big part of what makes BaseCamp so beneficial. The Trail Mixer on the second night of the conference was very nice. Drink tickets made sure everyone was nice and socially lubricated for optimal conversation. This is where I realized I was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with on the cornhole boards. I guess in Virginia I get some pretty good practice. What can I say, we are great at tossing bags of corn!

giant checkers, giant jenga, and a giant crowd of people were key parts of the mixer!

giant checkers, giant jenga, and a giant crowd of people were key parts of the mixer!

The backbone of Basecamp is the plethora of workshops and presentations available every single day. This is where I learned something: SketchUp is capable of so many incredible things. From initial line drawings all the way through to photorealistic renders, SketchUp can get the job done.

I also realized that using SketchUp without extensions is like using a SmartPhone without apps. Extensions are similar to apps. They are created by SketchUp users to expand the capabilities of the program in a specific way or another. There are both free and paid extensions, but they all exist to expedite your workflow in one way or another. There are, of course, extension developers as well. Many of those developers were at the conference, and they are like rock stars. It might sound a bit strange - some nerd who sits at a computer and codes programs all day being treated like a celebrity, but these people make SketchUp faster. SketchUp has changed so many people’s lives by giving them a livelihood and changing the way they make a living. These extension developers make my work easier, faster, and better. It’s no wonder they are revered and respected the way they are.

nick sonder’s class on smart construction modeling showed me exactly what’s possible when it comes to using sketchup for architecture

nick sonder’s class on smart construction modeling showed me exactly what’s possible when it comes to using sketchup for architecture

The classes themselves varied greatly. They range in topics from SketchUp 101 to creating complex construction documents using both SketchUp and Layout in tandem. I personally enjoyed all of my classes, although some of the workshops I attended were more rudimentary than I anticipated. If there is one thing I would suggest for Basecamps in the future, it would be a better indication system for the skill level of each class. It would be helpful to know more details on what the class is about and the specific skill set requirements for the class in question. Regardless, I left each class with at least one piece of helpful information or hack to make my workflow easier.

nick sonders shows how dividing a project into different, smaller files can organize a model while also keeping the file size down

nick sonders shows how dividing a project into different, smaller files can organize a model while also keeping the file size down

Desert Glow Party

If there was one thing I would have expected to NOT see at 3D Basecamp in Palm Springs, it would have been a lady riding a 10’ tall giant flamingo. I did not see that coming.

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That was a good indication that the Desert Glow Party on Thursday night was going to be a good one. The night started off of course with drink tickets (which seemed to be abundant, people just kept giving them to me). Dinner was included, which was awesome like the rest of the meals they provided. They had an awesome band, which included a different type of hula dancer. She was basically pearched on a spinning hoop 10 feet above the ground. Shannon, whom I love dearly, was wondering how she stayed up there. That conversation went as follows:

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After too many drinks and a bit of dancing, I turned in at the ripe hour of midnight to be ready for the classes the next morning.

A Canadian, an Israeli, and an America were all driving through the desert...

...And it was amazing.

I haven’t mentioned Jeff yet, but he was one of the people I connected with most at Basecamp. Jeff is a Canadian, eh, and he actually designs emergency expandable medical shelters, which sounded very similar to Bayside Tiny Homes. Both of us had no real formal training in architecture - everything we know we learned ourselves.

At dinner one night, Eitan, Jeff and I all decided we should visit Joshua Tree National Park, which was about a 45 minute drive from our hotel. We gathered our gear after the farewell lunch on friday and headed out. It was really nice of Eitan to drive us in his rental, otherwise I don’t think we could have made it happen.

the more barren parts of joshua tree on the southern side of the park

the more barren parts of joshua tree on the southern side of the park

the cactus garden

the cactus garden

We came in through the southern entrance of the park, which was mostly barren desert with some mountains in the distance. As we continued, the desert vegetation started to become more lush, eventually taking us to what is known as the cactus garden.

Walking through the cactus garden was a trip. Both Eitan and Jeff brought their drones (which were awesome, by the way. Eitan has a DJI spark which is incredible). Eitan got some awesome shots of the cacti...it was insane the sheer amount of cacti congregated in one place. They went on as far as the eye could see. We hung out there until eitan had used up a battery in his drone, then we plucked the cacti out of our shoes and continued our adventure.

those needles go right through a tennis shoe, by the way

those needles go right through a tennis shoe, by the way

caution: boulders are way bigger than they appear

caution: boulders are way bigger than they appear

As we drove deeper into the park, we started to notice the boulders. These suckers just kept getting bigger and bigger the further we went. Eventually we got the a place called skull rock. It reminded me of skull rock in peter pan where the pirates took Tiger Lily. We hiked and climbed through the boulders, which thankfully were very textured. I was pleasantly surprised just how steep of a surface you could climb. I can totally understand the draw to bouldering (which we saw a lot of people doing).

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Our time in Joshua Tree ended after that, as the sun was quickly descending back behind the mountains that surrounded us. In a last little moment of awe, I glanced out of my passenger side window and saw a figure perched atop the summit of a boulder. None of us could really tell what it was, but upon closer inspection with his monocular, Jeff was able to see it was a goat with big round horns curling around his head. He was just chilling, watching the sunset over his kingdom. Pretty damn majestic if you ask me, and a great way to end the day at Joshua Tree.

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The next day, we all said our goodbyes, and Eitan, being the generous man he is, saved me yet another Uber to the airport. I told him to consider going to the next Basecamp in Vancouver, but he said his family might kill him if he leaves too often. As I sit here in Pheonix finishing my story of Basecamp, I’m thinking maybe he’ll read this and I can convince him to get away for another week in a couple of years. So to everyone I met in Palm Springs, I can’t wait to reconnect in 2 years to see what everyone has accomplished! Later, nerds.