Sketchfab in the Classroom: Digital Arts & Entertainment, Howest, Belgium

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More and more teachers are using Sketchfab in their classes, from using Sketchfab to submit and review assignments, to browsing our library for example models to show in class. Join us and discover the stories of teachers around the world in our new Sketchfab in the Classroom series!

Today I’m talking to Yves Pauwels and Milan Van Damme from the Digital Arts & Entertainment department at the Belgian Howest school. Each year, they train over 500 students and Sketchfab plays an important role in their classes.

Hi guys, can you introduce yourself?

Y: My name is Yves Pauwels, I’ve been teaching at Digital Arts and Entertainment since the beginning, so for 9 years. Before that I taught Flash for 6 year and was a freelance Flash designer (ah…the good old days).

M: I’m Milan Van Damme, I’ve been with DAE for the last 4 years. After studying architecture for two years I admitted to myself that I really liked creating 3d models more than building structures, and found a better education, which was at the time brand new: Digital Arts and Entertainment. After graduating I worked in a few smaller companies and later took the chance to become a teacher.

Which classes do you teach? How many students are in those classes?

Y: In the first year I teach the courses “3D low poly” (first semester) and “3D high poly” (second semester). In the first year we have about 400 students, which is quite a challenge.

In the third year I also guide students with making their portfolio and their graduation work. Those are about 80 students.

M: Besides teaching the first year students I teach Level Design and Game Graphics, a 3D course where we teach hand-painted texturing techniques. In the second year we have multiple majors, with about 50 students per major per year.

How do you use Sketchfab in your classes?

In the course “3D low poly” our students have to make a small city scene. They learn 3ds Max and Photoshop for the first time. The output is an optimized game environment with a diffuse only texture, no normal map baking yet. They need to export their 3ds Max scene to Sketchfab so we can easily view this in real-time. We will also see if they named all their assets correctly and if they managed to get the Xrefs and textures to load up correctly. Thanks to the wireframe view of Sketchfab we can check if they optimized their scene.

M: Most of this applies to the second year as well, 3D game assets which are meant for game engines and real time rendering can now be presented in their natural environment, i.e. real time Sketchfab. In the past we were left with screenshots from a game engine, or the Xoliul shader in 3ds Max.

Since we can now use animations in Sketchfab we already pushed our animation instructors to use Sketchfab in their courses.

Because we use Sketchfab from the very start we see that students can use it as a portfolio tool for any 3D content they make in their future projects.

Is there a specific problem that Sketchfab helps you solve?

We used to ask our students to make a 360 render of their 3ds Max scene, which was time consuming to make, especially the night before the exam. Since their scene is actually meant to be viewed in a real-time environment, it was a bit awkward to let them hand in renders, but we didn’t have any other way at the moment to look at them. We also didn’t have the time in this course to also teach them a game engine, like Unity or Unreal. This is something they will learn in the second year. What we wanted for a long time was a real-time viewer (online or offline) that was easy to export to. With the arrival of Sketchfab we can actually do that with all our students (400) and without spending too much time on it in class because the exporter is very easy to use.

Do your students like Sketchfab? Do they participate in the Sketchfab community?

Y: Yes they like it, they can share their creations with their friends and show off their skills. Some students do participate in the community.

M: Last year Sketchfab helped us organize a bit of a competition for the students. The final assignment for Game Graphics was to create a medieval style building with handpainted textures. This had to be uploaded to Sketchfab and a jury at Sketchfab decided on the winners. The students were extra motivated by this friendly competition and Sketchfab was very friendly to provide some prizes for the students.

Winner of the student competition: Blacksmith by Bram Nicaise

Is there anything that we could add to make Sketchfab easier to use for teachers?

Well, what we also like to see is a means of looking at the (multiple) textures of the assets they have created, what texture size have they used and how does the UV layouts look like. Now we still have to look into their 3ds Max project folders (which are sometimes very chaotic) and search for the correct textures.

Do you have any recommendations for other teachers?

Sketchfab is a great 3D viewer and it stimulates the students to put more effort in their works since everybody can view it online.


About the author


Bart Veldhuizen

Head of Community at Sketchfab. 3D Scanning enthusiast and Blenderhead. Running BlenderNation in my spare time.

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