iSTAR: Using Google SketchUp to bring out the best in those with autism

It’s amazing to see some of the ways that Google products can connect people, often in very unexpected ways. Cheryl Wright, Associate Professor in Family & Consumer Studies at the University of Utah, recently hosted some SketchUp camps known as iSTAR. The camps are designed for children on the autism spectrum, and have proven to be very useful for a variety of reasons.


The idea came from a seed planted almost eight years ago, as told by the Google SketchUp Blog:

About 8 years ago, the SketchUp team started receiving some pretty intriguing calls: parents of children on the autism spectrum were calling to let us know how SketchUp was changing their kids’ lives. People with autism tend to be unusually strong visual and spatial thinkers, and it became clear that SketchUp plays to those strengths. With that bit of information (and help from the Autism Society of Boulder County), we launched Project Spectrum with a single goal: connecting the autism community with SketchUp.

The video below provides a brief look at the iSTAR camps:

Cheryl and her team have studied hours of footage from the iSTAR camps and have published a paper that details their findings. In addition, you can read more in this article on the University of Utah’s web site.
SketchUp is an amazing tool to help model our 3D world, but has uses that go far beyond its original intent. Learn more about these excellent programs on the Google SketchUp Blog.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. My son has mild ASD, and loves playing around with SketchUp. I think it runs in the male side of the family.
    Although not diagnosed, I strongly suspect I also have ASD, but I believe I have mostly grown out of the condition. It would go a long way towards explaining why I enjoy using SketchUp myself! If you’d care to take a look at my model of the gates of Buckingham Palace in London (on GE of course) perhaps you can get a measure of how much I enjoy the challenge. I wonder how many people producing models for GE have a mild streak of autism, but it is unlikely that many would admit to having the condition because of the fear of prejudice. In England, thankfully attitudes are changing due to some good publicity on television. I hope this will happen everywhere.

  2. @Jonathan
    How old is your son?

  3. SketchUp is amazing! What you do with it. I redecorated my room.

  4. I redecorated my workshop

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