Battling COVID-19 with educational, interactive designs

March 31, 2020 Cara Bell

Normally Christopher Westhoff and his team from LR Design+Build work on whimsical projects — from custom ball machines to interactive sculptures. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he and his team were called into action. We sit down to learn about his latest piece, an exhibit that visualizes microbial spread and promotes hygiene best practices.


Tell us a little bit about your recent project? 

Our team has been busy lately, expanding into a new space and making these exhibit designs come to life. With recent events surrounding COVID-19, we wanted to jump in and help out with what we do best - building exhibits. This exhibit, in particular, is about the transmission of viruses and was built entirely in SketchUp.  It’s a simple touchscreen-based app that uses colored dots to represent people and their interactions to quickly show how contact with an infected person spreads the virus. We give the user an opportunity to utilize some of these practices right away by including built-in hand sanitizer pumps, sanitizing wipes, and wastebaskets. This design lends itself nicely to entryways of museums, and other public spaces by encouraging healthy practices. The users encountering this exhibit are engaged in a playful, educational experience that arms them with the knowledge to give social space, practice covering their coughs, and sanitizing their hands as they touch surfaces. 

My entire team collaborated to make this exhibit a reality as efficiently as possible with an accelerated production schedule.  With this exhibit, we aim to make a positive impact on our communities both locally and globally. After all, we are in this together, and we want to do our part.

What was your SketchUp workflow?

I began by creating basic shapes to determine the general size and shape of the exhibit.  From there I began turning basic forms into the actual cabinet. We worked with components so that we could quickly make adjustments and hole patterns to individual pieces. We often use the mirror function when creating cabinets that are symmetrical. This allows us to only model half the cabinet, which greatly reduces our model design time. 

We also created component libraries of common objects we used to help save time. For example: hinges, screws, predrilled holes, and buttons. This allowed us to place them in any model, ensuring all dimensions were correct.  

After the 3D model was created, I was able to think through how our shop was actually going to build the piece. It allowed us to catch costly mistakes before we went into the final build stage.  We even made components of various tools that we used, like drills and staple guns, to make sure we could fit them into the areas we needed to make the cabinets.

Once all of those details were finalized, I started to “virtually” (in SketchUp) layout all the cabinet pieces on 4’x8’ sheets to match the material it was going to be cut out of. This helped give me an accurate estimate of the total material needed. 

Then it was time for final approvals. Once I was satisfied with everything I began sending parts out to be cut.  For parts that were CNC routed, I exported my SketchUp model directly to the CNC. For laser cut parts, I converted it to a 2D shape and exported it to DXF.
 

How did SketchUp help with this project?

SketchUp allowed our team and our clients to visually communicate and produce quality products efficiently. Due to COVID-19, government orders caused us to have to close up our physical operations; though, my team and I decided that creating this exhibit was too important to stop pressing forward.

We are grateful to have access to SketchUp at home because we were able to efficiently share the workload, communicate visually by sharing models through email and the SketchUp Viewer app on our phones.

About the Author

Cara Bell

When Cara's not writing copy or learning about customer workflows, you can find her on top of a 14,000 ft mountain, hitting up those Colorado ski slopes, or binging Netflix shows on her couch.

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