BY GRETCHEN SCHAEFER

When it comes to students building models in class, why should they make the same old sugar cube igloo as everyone else when they can create paper replicas of the Capitol building? Creating a 3D model on the computer can be fun for aspiring architects and designers, but the fun doesn’t have to stop at the screen. Waybe is a program to bring your digital models to life using plain paper, tape, scissors, and Google.

Waybe works with Google SketchUp — a free (and great) 3D modeling tool. When you download Waybe (available for Mac and Windows), you can convert your SketchUp designs into paper craft versions, printed on flat paper that you then fold into a scale model of your design. The demo version is free for 15 days, and there are different licenses, including site licenses, available depending upon your intended use. Advanced licenses let you resize your designs to fit the paper you’re using or create AutoCad-compatible files.

The Waybe site has several video tutorials to get you started (and there are some great video tutorials out there for SketchUp, too) and depending on the license you’ve purchased, you can even get email and telephone support if you run into problems.

They are also offering the Education version free to educators for the 2009-2010 school year. While the year is almost over, it might be a fun tool to use to wrap up the year, or to learn more about the tool before deciding on a license purchase. Details on obtaining the free license can be found here.

Waybe