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Promoting Education, Part 3: PTC

15 Oct, 2008 By: Jeffrey Rowe

As do many of its competitors, PTC provides a number of resources to education at many levels.

As many of you already know, I've been a long-time proponent of technical education at several levels, secondary school through college and university, as well as associated extracurricular activities. I'm happy to report that the MCAD community has become increasingly more involved in education with greater commitment — and impressive results.

In April, MCAD Tech News #238 discussed the educational programs and products offered by Autodesk. In August, MCAD Tech News #249 looked at education from SolidWorks' point of view. This time around, I spoke with Mark Fischer, director of the education program for PTC. He provided insight into the comprehensive educational programs that PTC offers.

PTC began its educational program in 1999 in the United Kingdom by providing Pro/DESKTOP design software at no cost to secondary schools. Since then, the company has expanded its education programs globally and has continually upgraded its offerings, now providing comprehensive education solutions to meet the needs of secondary schools and universities. PTC's educational program is currently active in 28 countries, involving more than 23,000 teachers.

PTC Products and Programs for Education
Today, PTC provides Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire v4 (a 3D MCAD program), Mathcad (engineering calculation software), and Windchill (online collaboration, PLM software) to secondary schools, colleges, and universities. PTC also provides a complete curriculum that is tied to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) national standards, assessments, online training resources, and certification. Fischer said that PTC is somewhat unique because its education programs are more of a community relations or philanthropic pursuit rather than a revenue generator. "We want schools to get the best software possible and we don't want them to have to worry about the budget; that is why our programs are free or at a low cost," he said.

PTC delineates its education efforts into two broad programs:

  • DesignQuest Schools Program for secondary schools. This is a philanthropic program, free of charge, that is intended to simply give back to the educational community and to get kids excited about science, math, and technology by providing schools a triad of offerings: technology (such as Pro/ENGINEER), curricula (STEM-based), and assessment (testing the proficiency of the concepts introduced in the curricula).

  • DesignQuest University Program for community colleges, universities, and postsecondary technical schools. Postsecondary educational institutions are provided PTC products on an annual subscription basis whereby the products are based on the site license. Because postsecondary institutions are considered commercial customers, they are supported at the same level as any other commercial PTC customer.

Both programs are intended to teach students how practicing engineers use software tools in the context of real-world processes to solve problems. Fischer said that, regardless of level, education has a special relationship with PTC that is more akin to a symbiotic partnership than a traditional business relationship, which he feels benefits both parties.

When asked how PTC ensures a presence in educational institutions, Fischer said that existing PTC commercial customers actually help a lot by voicing their need for qualified students they can ultimately hire. "A high percentage of schools adopt PTC technology because that is what is being demanded from certain segments of [the design, engineering, and manufacturing] industry and community," he said.

Fischer said that PTC monitors levels of satisfaction for its educational programs through newsletters, surveys, and tracking web sites for what the education customers like and don't like, and based on input/feedback, constantly try to improve its programs and offerings for education.

Associated with education as extracurricular activities, PTC has also partnered with some prominent design competitions, such as FIRST Robotics and the Department of Energy's Real World Design Challenge. These links will provide information about PTC's involvement with FIRST and the Department of Energy (DOE).

Since the secondary school program is free, and university programs are purchased site licenses, I was curious how the overall education programs are paid for. Fischer responded, "A lot of funding comes from our premier partners, such as Dell, HP, and 3D Connexion. They help us sustain our education programs to ensure that the next generation of students succeeds in the technological world through free and low-cost programs without compromise. At PTC we don't want to deviate from that mission."

Fischer summed things up by saying, "Our goal is to get students at all levels of education excited about design, technology, math, and science. So many times these students are not looking down these paths because they don't see value, opportunity, and benefits in them. PTC wants to provide opportunities and open students' eyes to these technological possibilities, and assist and guide them in the right way through comprehensive programs — not just giving away software and telling them to just 'go use it.'

"PTC doesn't provide products so much as complete programs for schools that build a pipeline for students to consider careers in engineering and design, as well as providing proficient and qualified PTC software users to prospective employers."

For more information on PTC's products and programs for education, visit the PTC Education Web site.

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