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Create and View Your Own 3D Models in Virtual Reality

308 reviews


Areas of Science
Time Required
Short (2-5 days)
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies
*Note: For this science project you will need to develop your own experimental procedure. Use the information in the summary tab as a starting place. If you would like to discuss your ideas or need help troubleshooting, use the Ask An Expert forum. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions and offer guidance if you come to them with specific questions.

If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk (*) at the end of the title.


Virtual reality (VR) headsets are becoming increasingly popular. Video game designers use a variety of programs to create the amazing 3D worlds that you see when you turn on your favorite video game, and many of those worlds are now also designed to be compatible with VR headsets. Can you use a computer-aided design (CAD) program or video game engine to design your own virtual world that can be viewed using a VR headset?

Table 1 lists several CAD programs and websites that you can use to make or view 3D models. Some of them do not have built-in VR capability, but you can export your 3D model for use with a separate VR viewer. You can also purchase a VR headset that lets you insert a smartphone to use as a screen. These headsets are typically much cheaper than gaming or computer VR headsets with built-in screens. VR technology is changing rapidly, so you will need to search online for headsets and programs that are compatible with your phone as a viewer. Note that the original CAD work can be done on a computer, and then you can view the model on your phone. You do not need to use a phone for all the design work.

Program/Website Description
Tinkercad Free CAD program, great for beginners
SketchUp Beginner-friendly CAD program, free version available
Fusion 360 Intermediate CAD program, free for students
Inventor Professional CAD program, free for students
Solidworks Professional CAD program, discounted version available for students
Sketchfab.com 3D model sharing website. Easy to upload models from any CAD program and view them in VR on a mobile device. Good option for students of all skill levels who want to view a CAD model in VR.
Unity Video game design software. Free version available. For advanced students.
Google VR Documentation for developing virtual reality apps for Android and iOS devices, including games designed in Unity. For advanced students.
Table 1. List of programs and websites you could use to design and view your own VR content.

Figure 1 shows a simple forest environment made using Tinkercad, and Figure 2 shows a house designed using SketchUp. Both are displayed using the Sketchfab viewer. On a desktop, you can use your mouse to control the camera and look around the models. On a mobile device, you can click the "View in VR" button. This will split the screen into two images, one for each eye, that show the scene from slightly different angles (just like your eyes work in the real world). When you place the mobile device in a VR headset, the result you see is a single, 3D image.

Forest by Science Buddies on Sketchfab

Figure 1. A 3D forest environment made with TinkerCAD.

House by Science Buddies on Sketchfab

Figure 2. A house designed with SketchUp.

This project may be a good fit if your school has a "maker fair" or another type of exhibition where you can show off something you designed or made. If you want to enter it in a traditional science or engineering fair, you will need to figure out how to convert it to a project that follows either the scientific method or the engineering design process. Here are some ideas:

icon scientific method

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Global Connections

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
This project explores topics key to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.


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MLA Style

Finio, Ben. "Create and View Your Own 3D Models in Virtual Reality." Science Buddies, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Games_p033/video-computer-games/create-and-view-your-own-3d-models-in-virtual-reality. Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

APA Style

Finio, B. (2023, February 22). Create and View Your Own 3D Models in Virtual Reality. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Games_p033/video-computer-games/create-and-view-your-own-3d-models-in-virtual-reality

Last edit date: 2023-02-22
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