Building 3D structures in Minecraft is a fun activity that many students enjoy. This lesson focuses on the unique challenges students face when re-creating a real world structure in Minecraft. This will involve a lot of practical mathematics, creativity and a touch of architecture. Students will model the room or building that they are in during this lesson. They will need a way to measure the dimensions of the room and major pieces of furniture, but the measurements do not need to be accurate.
Step 1 – Measure internal dimensions
Hopefully the room you are modelling has straight walls – if you are in a room with curved walls or windows I suggest you do a different room or straighten it out so that it’s rectangular. You know why right? In minecraft doing curves is a little tricky unless you have really big structures.
Measure the internal dimensions of the room using a measuring tape. It will help to do a sketch on paper and write down the dimension in the sketch with arrows to show where you measured from. You should also add any windows or doors to the sketch and their position and width.
Step 2 – Do the maths then tinker
After a bit of research I’ve decided we should use the 1:1.5 for converting metres to blocks. For small scale builds this should create Minecraft models that feel about right. The downside is that we have to do some number crunching, but that’s good right? I must admit that it did hurt my head just a little as I thought about it. 1:1 would be so much easier, but easier is not always better and who wants to be in a squishy room even if it’s a virtual room with a game character?
Ok, so if your room is 3 metres wide that would equal 4.5 blocks (multiply the measurement by 1.5)! Obviously we can’t do half blocks so in this case we should probably round up to 5 blocks. We will do a lot of rounding. What if your room was 3.2 metres wide? Well, 3.2 x 1.5 = 4.8 blocks – which would also round up to 5 blocks!
To help with these calculations I’ve created a handy calculator in Scratch. You still have to measure your room and then enter the length and width.
You will have to make lots of adjustments due to the limitations of block sizes. Each block is exactly 0.66m using the 1:1.5 ratio. This means that the smallest space that can be represented in Minecraft is 0.66 metres! What if we have a wall that is only 30 centimetres (0.3m)? Well, either it doesn’t show in Minecraft or we exaggerate it by over 100%. See if you can spot the adjustments I had to make in my example plan:
In my example I have a very symmetrical room, but it turns out that I had to make a few changes to keep it symmetrical in Minecraft. The width of the room was 3m which I converted to 5 blocks (rounding up). The width of the window is also 3m, but I made it 4 blocks – why? The 1 metre walls on either side of the window were 2 blocks each. The total length of the room was 5m = 8 blocks so I had to round down the window to 4 blocks instead of 5. If I kept the window as 5 blocks then one of the walls would have to be 2 blocks and the other 1 block which would look weird due to the loss of symmetry. The door was also rounded down to 1 block as Minecraft doors are 1 block anyway AND I wanted the walls on either side of the door to remain at 2 blocks. I think it was a good compromise.
Step 3 – Craft it
Now we need to use Minecraft to actually create the model and test to see if it feels right. We haven’t discussed the height of the room yet but it’s usually not as complex. Minecraft doors are 2 blocks high which doesn’t quite make sense with our scale as it would only be 1.33m, but it’s ok. As a rule most walls should be 3-4 blocks high – maybe more if you have really high ceilings. Here’s my example floorplan as a model.
By comparison if we used the 1:1 ratio where each block is exactly 1m then the room would look a lot more cramped.
I used white terracotta for the walls and white carpet on the floors. You can experiment with different blocks to try and get the colour and texture to something you like. I also used stained white glass panes instead of glass blocks.
If you’re not happy with how the room feels once you have modelled it you can always make changes by rounding your numbers differently. Maybe once you start placing furniture in the room you may feel it’s too big or small – that’s ok – make the changes. Update your floorplan sketch with your block numbers if you change them. It’s a good record of how you had to tinker with the design to get it right.
Step 4 – Record your build
Use a camera and book and quill to capture the details of your room. Hopefully you remember how to do this (steps here). Remember to take pictures from different positions to record all the furnishings and decorations. You should also export the book and email it to me or send via ClassDojo.
Step 5 – Challenge
If one room wasn’t enough how about modelling the part of the building that connects to the room? Or if you need a bit more room for your imagination then how about adding a portal to an awesome treehouse.