Energy3D works just like Google's SketchUp: You can create a 3D structure by drag-and-drop -- no number crunching is required. But unlike SketchUp, it is tailor-made for building design, evaluation, and fabrication to support engineering design learning in K-12 schools. One of its great features is the "print-out" functionality, which allows students to print out the houses they designed using a regular printer and then cut out the 2D pieces for 3D assembly (see the second image in this blog post).
You can imagine how Energy3D may work for your students by looking at the houses designed by a class of high school students in the third image of this blog post. The tool is very easy to use and works well even for young kids. So if you are teaching in an elementary school, give it a try and tell us how it can be improved for younger students.
The development of Energy3D has been funded by the National Science Foundation under the Engineering Energy Efficiency Project. Dr. Saeid Nourian, a computer scientist with a Ph. D. from the University of Ottawa, has been the primary developer since joining the project in 2010. The software is based on the open-source scene graph game engine, Ardor3D, which requires Java to be installed.