5 STEM education lesson plans and activities to learn 3D design

Get inspired by Vectary’s 3D design lessons for an effective STEM program.

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In her article “Characteristic of 6 great STEM lessons”, Anna Jolie says that STEM is more than just the grouping of subject areas. It is a movement to develop the deep mathematical and scientific underpinnings students need to be competitive in the 21st-century workforce. We couldn't agree more.

We believe that 3D modeling in Vectary can stimulate students’ creativity, design thinking, problem solving, mathematical skills, as well as teach them about teamwork. All of these are important skills for their future. Engineers, designers, scientists, teachers, architects, financial analysts, doctors - all of them will be using or creating AR or VR in the future, at their jobs.

Our Vectary motto is:

“Grow creators, not consumers.”

A creator is able to not only consume and understand 3D content, but also create one. Our basic lessons are made for Middle and High School students, but they can be used by anyone who likes to learn and play.

Here are some examples of activities you can perform during your STEM classes:

STEM Lesson 1: Learn the basics of 3D design. Create your room in 3D

In this lesson, students will learn the basic orientation in the 3D scene and basic 3D modeling tool transformations such as moving objects on the scene, scaling and rotating. 3D designing in Vectary is as simple and fun as a game.

What students need:

  • free Vectary account on vectary.com
  • desktop computer with internet connection
  • mouse
  • Chrome browser

Instructions for students:

  1. Watch the tutorial.
  2. Open the empty room template and try to arrange your own room by dragging and dropping objects from the 3D Assets library. Be creative. Use the gizmo to transform and the side panel to change colors.
  3. Publish it on Vectary or share it with your teacher.

This activity can also be done in teams. The Vectary 3D design tool supports real-time collaboration, so a team of 2-3 students can work on the scene at the same time. Contact our Education team for more info.

STEM Lesson 2: Create a mug

In this lesson we go deeper in the Edit mode where students will learn how to edit and customize a geometry. They will learn functions like 3D drawing, Extrude, Smoothing and Bevel. The final mug can be used in 3D printing if your class has a 3D printer, or you can order the final product on Shapeways

What students need:

  • free Vectary account on vectary.com
  • desktop computer with internet connection
  • mouse
  • Chrome browser

Instructions for students:

Watch the video tutorial:

How to create a mug in Vectary from scratch:

  1. Open the Vectary editor.
  2. Enter Edit mode. To start with a blank scene, click on the Object list and then on the New Object button.
  3. Draw Cylinder. Hover over the Draw Box button and click Draw Cylinder. Click in the middle of the grid, release and drag to the side to set the base width of the cylinder. Then click again and drag upwards to set the height. You’ll now see a Jog appear: here you can change various parameters of the geometry. Click and drag the Radius around the Jog to a value of about 80. Then do the same with the Height and set it to about 100. Move on to Radial segments and change the value to 20. And finally, set the height segments to 8. Click once again in the canvas to deselect the object.
  4. Create a mug shell. Click on the point situated on top of the object and delete it by hitting Delete or the Backspace key.
  5. Add thickness. Select all faces: First, you need to select faces from the selection tools located at the top. Click on the Selection Jog and choose Select all. Thickness can be added using a function called Extrude. Click the Extrude icon and an arrow will appear. Drag the arrow into the model to adjust the thickness of the mug wall. Once done, confirm it by clicking into the blank area, or hitting Enter.
  6. Create a handle. To create a handle, select the faces for the base of the handle. With faces selected, click the Bridge icon. The Bridge automatically creates a mesh between the two objects. In our case, it’s the shape of the handle. We can increase the values of Strength and Segments to make the handle more realistic. If you are happy with that, click into the canvas or hit Enter to confirm.
  7. Smooth. Our mug looks great, but we still want to make it smooth. To do that, simply click the Smoothing icon.
  8. Bevel. With the Bevel tool you can adjust the sharpness on the edges. To do so, select the lines you want to bevel and drag the handle.
  9. Exit Edit mode. If you’re happy with your mug, press Done Editing. Go back to Object mode where you can change and render the color, add lights, materials and textures. You can even invite your friends and colleagues to collaborate in real time.
  10. Export. You can export your 3D model in the left panel and use it for 3D printing, add it to your game, VR or AR project.

STEM Lesson 3: Discover materials in Vectary

This is like a coloring game in 3D! Drag and drop materials from the Materials library and change the settings in the left panel. It’s a great hands-on opportunity to discover how material settings change the look of a 3D model and make it more realistic. 

What students need:

  • free Vectary account on vectary.com
  • desktop computer with internet connection
  • mouse
  • Chrome browser

Instructions for students:

  1. Open the Vectary template and click Materials in the Objects library at the bottom.
  2. Click the icon or object you’d like to color, and drag and drop materials onto it.
  3. Play with the color and settings in the right side panel.
  4. Try real-time rendering.
  5. Export the model as a PNG image or share it with your teacher.

Bonus activity: 

Create your own 3D icon, and use it as an icon for a folder on your computer. Use Vectary’s Edit mode, Noun Project icons or 3D assets.

Team STEM lesson 4: Create a city

This will teach students how to create environments for their game design. They can use all their previous skills: work with the 3D Assets library, change color, materials, and create their own objects. It can be done solo or as a team.

Note: Real-time collaboration is part of our Premium plans. Contact our Education team for a special education plan.

What students need:

  • free Vectary account on vectary.com
  • desktop computer with internet connection
  • mouse
  • Chrome browser

How to create a city in 3D:

  1. Open a city template.
  2. Search for buildings and 3D assets and place them inside the town.
  3. Change colors, materials and add lights.
  4. Render the image.
  5. Export the image as PNG if you want a 2D image, or in a glTF format that is supported in game environments such as Unity.

AR design STEM lesson 5: Create a custom Snapchat lens

This one is a little bit more advanced tutorial, but with a lot of fun results that students will love. At the end, they will be able to create their own custom Snapchat lens like fun 3D glasses.

snapchat lens created with vectary example

Have you tried these lessons in your STEM classes? Give us feedback.

Do you have any STEM curricula including Vectary in the lesson that you’d like to share? Contact us.