December 17, 2020

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, DPR Construction has created unique ways to continue supporting its nonprofit partners by facilitating virtual events and programs. For example, the development of an educational course focused on the basics of SketchUp, a virtual design software, for Peninsula Bridge.

Peninsula Bridge, a Bay Area organization providing low-income middle school students with academic and personal support, invited DPR to host an hour of SketchUp training each day during their week-long summer program. In alignment with DPR’s community initiative pillar of “creating and delivering construction education and career programs for under-resourced youth,” this SketchUp course showcased the company’s ongoing commitment to the goals of Peninsula Bridge while educating their youth on construction career paths.

Thanks to its intuitive design, SketchUp was the perfect introductory software to expand the students’ understanding of the various ways technology is present in the construction industry. SketchUp allowed students to create 3D models of buildings, mimicking a basic version of virtual design and construction (VDC) software often implemented on DPR projects.

Screenshot of DPR's SketchUp training session teaching students how to build 3D models using SketchUp.
SketchUp allowed students to create 3D models of buildings, mimicking a basic version of virtual design and construction (VDC) software often implemented on DPR projects. Photo courtesy of Madeline Ziser

“We really wanted to demonstrate that construction isn’t just about physical labor,” said Madeline Ziser, a Bay Area DPR project manager who co-created the SketchUp training course. “It’s about teamwork and being smart in the way that you build.”

Ziser shared that this new training was inspired by DPR’s South Florida team who originally taught SketchUp to the students of The Milagro Center earlier this year. After seeing how successful that training could be for nonprofits moving their youth programming to a virtual format, Ziser teamed up with Diane Shelton who leads DPR’s Community Initiatives efforts, to create a formal SketchUp training curriculum.

“There is a lot of planning that goes into every DPR project and that planning involves the use of some really cool software,” said Ziser. “By facilitating this virtual course, we got to show students just how much technology goes into construction, while also piquing their interest in construction-related career paths.”

Peninsula Bridge’s Executive Director, Randi Shafton expressed gratitude for the hands-on SketchUp training: “Thank you for an amazing week of construction and design with DPR. What an incredible opportunity for our students with such fabulous feedback and coaching from the DPR team. This SketchUp experience is definitely one of the silver linings of the pandemic.”

SketchUp final project created by a Peninsula Bridge student
This 3D SketchUp model was a final project created by a Peninsula Bridge student during DPR's weeklong training. Photo courtesy of Madeline Ziser

While Peninsula Bridge may have been the first nonprofit to engage with this new SketchUp course, it certainly will not be the last. Ziser shared that DPR’s Ryan Meacham has led the development of the third version for the SketchUp curriculum so that DPR employees can facilitate this course virtually with nonprofit partners across the country.

Overall, Ziser is excited for what the future holds with the updated SketchUp course and the positive impact it will bring to DPR’s nonprofit partners’ educational and career-centric goals.

“This training is one of those surprising and positive outcomes of the pandemic. We never would have been pushed out of our box if not for the change to push everything to being virtual,” Ziser said. “I really hope that we can continue to incorporate a SketchUp training permanently going forward and provide something unique and exciting for the kids.”