“Line is a basic form of communication, and learning the basics of sketch is as important as learning to write.” This is the premise behind the Complete-A-Sketch products.

Advanced Complete-A-Sketch is an introduction to technical drawing. It is a 78-page CD book with two types of projects: two- and three-dimensional drawings, and three-dimensional paper models. There are three different explanatory pages in the book, one on orthographic views (two-dimensional representations of an object–in this case usually showing the front or side view of something), one on isometric projections (which show multiple sides of an object–think of a drawing of a die), and one on multi-view drawings. These last drawings have at least two sketches of an object to complete–a top and side view of a boat, for example. Drawing projects include a sailboat, a sports car, a helicopter, a truck, Da Vinci’s air screw, a train, a robotic arm, a computer work station, a satellite, an aircraft carrier, and a camera.

The paper models are flat patterns to cut and fold and tape or glue. There are construction tips and photos for each of these projects, which include a parking garage, a military tank, an oil rig, a bridge, a catamaran, and an airplane.

At the end of the CD are blank pages of two kinds of drawing paper: orthographic sketch grid and isometric sketch grid. These enable students to make their own drawings. The bonus material consists of three volumes of archival projects and links to other helpful websites with access to 100 files of models and sketches.

The three types of drawing pages all have a similar format. A completed sketch of the object is in the upper left-hand corner. Partial sketches with intersection points as well as some of the detail lines are the focus of the page. These pages are to be printed out and completed by the student by connecting the points and lines. It is recommended that after completing the partial sketch, the student use a blank piece of paper to sketch the image. Then he should use a ruler, etc. to complete the sketch.

A straightedge, French curve, compass, or circle templates are needed for the drawings. For the paper models, scissors, craft knife, cutting pad, and adhesive are suggested student tools. We strongly recommend using a mechanical pencil for the line drawings to ensure a fine, sharp line and to eliminate multiple trips to the pencil sharpener.

Although this product is for children ages 10 and up or middle schoolers, some of these projects are extremely difficult and would require a mature student who is motivated and persistent. This is a hands-on learning curriculum. Children who are independent learners would do well with this program. It is student-led, not teacher-directed.

While the vast majority of the projects are structures, vehicles, or tools and more appealing to the typical boy, I was pleased to see a number of objects that a girl would also enjoy working on. These include a string bass, a cityscape, a house, and a castle. In the bonus materials section, in particular, were some designs appealing to either gender: a dodecahedron, a pyramid, a birdhouse, an obelisk, and the Sydney Opera House.

All of the Insight Technical Education products, including Advanced Complete-A-Sketch, are “specifically designed to be used in a self-paced, self-directed manner, or with minimal educator involvement.” While it says the teacher needs no prior knowledge of the subject, I think the introductory pages to each type of drawing could have more explanation.

I’m a little hazy on the student prerequisites for this product. While it states on the website that “Advanced neatly bridges the gap from the first three Complete-A-Sketch books to Practical Drafting,” and thus implies those three should be completed first, it doesn’t actually come right out and say this.

A feature I would add is more specifics on application. What careers use this type of skill and why? I think it always provides motivation when students understand when and where the things they are learning will be useful.

My husband, a mechanical design engineer in a larger manufacturing industry, says that technical drafting in the company for which he works is currently done through CAD (computer aided design), so I’m not sure of the application of this curriculum. Perhaps smaller companies use this more.

Advanced Complete-A-Sketch may be a good learning tool for students pursuing a job in a technical field requiring these drawing skills. I think it would be especially useful to those going into the technical drawing and illustrating area.

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