California-based technology company Trimble, best known for its GPS systems and popular 3D modeling software SketchUp Pro, announced today that it has made a large in-kind gift to the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst), which will further the university’s leadership in research and training for 3D building design, the sustainable built environment, and digital fabrication. For UMass Amherst, this new partnership will allow educators on campus to integrate important technological tools into its curricula. These tools are constantly changing how living and building environments are both designed and constructed.
UMass Amherst is currently working on a new Design Building, and this gift will make it possible to establish a 1,300-square-foot technology lab in the building. The new Trimble Technology Lab will be filled with Trimble equipment, like the company’s imaging rovers and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS), Trimble laser scanners and advanced robotic surveying systems, and many of its software packages, such as RealWorks scanning software, Vico Office Suite, Sefaira Architecture, and SketchUp Pro modeling software, among others. If you recall, Trimble purchased SketchUp from Google back in 2012 and has been consistently updating the software, integrating it with cloud-based file sharing platform Trimble Connect and working with Materialise to streamline 3D Warehouse and SketchUp together.
This is great news for UMass Amherst students, as the many possible applications of these technologies in the new Trimble Technology Lab include coastal erosion monitoring, scanning historic buildings in order to ensure preservation, digital fabrication of custom-lab equipment, designing and 3D printing architectural models, and improving cost estimating and scheduling in construction, which can help lower costs. Trimble’s in-kind gift is part of the successful $300 million-plus UMass Rising fundraising campaign. It was made specifically to the UMass Amherst Building and Construction Technology Program (BCT) in the College of Natural Sciences.
Steve Goodwin, Dean of Umass Amherst College of Natural Sciences, said, “This relationship highlights Trimble as a forward-thinking company, and I commend it for its very strong commitment to education, research and public service. The possibilities of the Trimble Technology Lab are limitless. As many more students and faculty across campus have access to these technologies, UMass Amherst will broaden our applications of surveying, 3D building modeling, performance analysis, and digital fabrication in new and exciting ways.”
Until the new Design Building opens this spring, the Trimble Technology Lab will be temporarily located in Holdsworth Hall. The lab will benefit four departments and three colleges at the beginning: College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning), College of Natural Sciences (Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Geosciences, and the Building and Construction Technology Program), and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts (Department of Architecture).
Alexander Schreyer, senior lecturer and BCT program director, said, “We are very excited about receiving this state-of-the-art technology and to be able to share these new capabilities with our colleagues in the Design Building-the Department of Architecture and the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning.”
Schreyer is also the author of popular textbook Architectural Design with SketchUp. He explained that, in creating the new Design Building, Leers-Weinzapfel Associates actually used Trimble’s 3D modeling software; I’d say that’s rather fitting. The Trimble Technology Lab will fit right in with the makerspace that already exists on the UMass Amherst campus, the Digital Media Lab (DML) 3D Innovation Center, housed in the W.E.B Du Bois Library. The UMass Amherst Library worked with MakerBot back in 2015 to set up the first large-scale 3D printing MakerBot Innovation Center at a university library.
The DML currently has 48 MakerBot 3D printers and five digitizers for the students to use in their studies and projects, as well as a handheld 3D scanner. I scrolled through the online gallery of student projects, and some of the work the students have created is really interesting – the current featured project is a 3D printed neck brace prototype, to prevent neck injury for off-road cyclists.
“We are extremely excited by our new relationship with UMass. Trimble’s broad portfolio is highly relevant for students at the university. The next generation of architecture, engineering, construction and operations professionals will be able to experience the breadth and depth of our construction lifecycle solutions. We also look forward to supporting and learning from these new professionals as they experience and apply our solutions to real-world applications in their curricula,” said Roz Buick, Vice President, Trimble.
The Trimble Technology Lab, in the new Design Building, will continue to encourage rapid prototyping, entrepreneurship, and experimentation among the students. UMass Amherst, the flagship of the five-campus UMass system, was founded in 1863, and is home to the Commonwealth Honors College. Due to its continuing research and creative work in all fields, it has been classified as a doctoral university with the “highest research activity,” or R1, by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Watch this video to learn more about the new Design Building: