Promoting Education, Part 2: Solidworks

3 Sep, 2008 By: Jeffrey Rowe

Like an increasing number of CAD companies, SolidWorks offers a wide variety of products and programs for aspiring engineers.

I've long been a proponent of technical education at several levels, from secondary school through college and university, in math, science, and technology. 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. This time around, I spoke with Marie Planchard, director of worldwide education markets for SolidWorks, who provided insight into the world of education from SolidWorks' perspective. She's an enthusiastic proponent of education who has "been there" as an engineer, educator, and author on several CAD packages over the years.

Planchard sees herself supporting the education of students and teachers, specifically as an engineering education advocate first and a SolidWorks advocate second. She employs SolidWorks as a medium for promoting engineering education — a means to an end. To help teachers and students make the connection between design and SolidWorks, she likes to suggest, "Let's see how SolidWorks can help you." This mindset leads her to promote SolidWorks from an educational, rather than a marketing, perspective. She was also proud to say that education advocacy is ingrained within SolidWorks as a company, from CEO Jeff Ray on down.

SolidWorks Products and Programs
"One of the main objectives of education at SolidWorks is to teach students not just modeling, but running a business with 3D design as a frame of reference and context," Planchard said. The company does this by offering several 3D design products and packages and supporting them through several company-sponsored and independent programs. The company also has some value-added resellers who are focused exclusively on education and who visit schools, competitions, and trade shows developing relationships with educators and educational institutions.

SolidWorks Education Edition is based on core SolidWorks for modeling, rendering, animation, and analysis, and includes all of the components found in SolidWorks Office Premium. It also includes COSMOSWorks, COSMOSMotion, and COSMOSFloWorks. It is intended for classroom use, but many institutions "borrow" licenses, meaning that a license gets shared for day classroom purposes and night for student access. SolidWorks offers the Education Edition as a stand-alone or network license — one DVD, one license code, one button installation. Specific 3D CAD functionality includes advanced part, assembly, and drawing development, as well as physical dynamics, surfacing, large assembly performance enhancing modes, routing, and drawing creation capabilities.

SolidWorks Student Edition can be purchased with ($199) or without ($99) the COSMOS analysis tools. Functionally, the software is nearly identical to the Education Edition with one major exception: Institutional licenses and commercial licenses are subscription based. That is, they can be renewed and upgraded. The SolidWorks Student Edition is a 24-month, limited-term-use license, which means the software expires 24 months after registration and cannot be renewed or upgraded. The SolidWorks Student Edition is available to registered, active, degree-seeking students who are currently enrolled in a degree-granting program at an accredited academic institution, and also to full-time faculty. The SolidWorks Student Edition is intended for personal learning purposes, and it watermarks all drawings with "Student Edition," making it unsuitable for commercial use.

SolidWorks Student Design Kit (SW SDK) is a 150-day copy designed for an academic year for students and educators who teach SolidWorks and who have purchased textbooks and robotic kits that come with a Student Design Kit download offer card, or for students who participate in design competitions in which the SW SDK is used. It is intended for homework assignments, student design projects, preparing course materials, learning about SolidWorks, and other educational purposes. The SW SDK provides a limited (nonrenewable/nonextendable) license. After installation, the product will run for the period of time specified in the download. After the software expires, students can then purchase the SolidWorks Student Edition to continue using SolidWorks student software. The SW SDK is fully compatible with data created using 2008-2009 academic year versions of the SolidWorks Education Edition and Student Edition.

In addition to the products themselves, SolidWorks also provides a number of resources for educators, including publications, textbooks, and tutorials.

Planchard said that at the college/university level, SolidWorks' educational involvement goes back 10 or 11 years, when it initially focused exclusively on mechanical engineering departments. That has changed in the past few years, however, and has expanded to include other departments such as physics, liberal arts (teaching the art of engineering), and medical schools (biomedical/biomechanical applications). She said, "Many institutions are going away from just teaching CAD to teaching design, going beyond just creating features to really thinking about functionality and how things can be better designed."

SolidWorks is also a big proponent of programs that promote and support education and its software. What follows are just some of the many programs SolidWorks is involved with:

Formula SAE competitions provide students real-world experience in designing, building, and testing their original vehicle designs in a team environment and with the same kinds of challenges they will face in industry. The competitions teach that communication, collaboration, deadlines, budgets, and teamwork are necessary components of any successful design project. Not surprisingly, Formula SAE activity is where many future innovations in tomorrow's transportation industry begin to take shape.

The CAD Academy is a collaborative group of professionals, software industry vendors, and educators formed to create a preengineering/prearchitecture program and environment for the education community, especially in high schools and community colleges. The goal of The CAD Academy is to inspire future engineers and architects with a comprehensive set of software and curricula.

SolidWorks Robotics University (SRU) began in June 2008. In this invitation-only social networking (it can connect to Facebook) community, students can share what they are doing with SolidWorks and robotics, either as individuals or as teams. SRU is a free, online, independent study robotics academy for all levels of robotics enthusiasts. Many of the participating middle school, high school, and college students are also competitors in BattleBots, FIRST, the MATE International ROV Competition, or RoboCup robotics contests. There are structured lessons, tutorials, event calendars, photos, videos, forums, blogs, chat, personal pages, and instruction for using SolidWorks for robot design. SRU also has donated more than 1,500 scholarship copies of SolidWorks 2007-2008 Student Edition software to registrants.

"SolidWorks Robotics University has something for just about everyone, whether you're a robotics competitor, somebody who wants to learn SolidWorks, somebody who likes robotics, or somebody who thinks they might like robotics," Planchard said. Interested students can request an invitation to the academy by sending an e-mail to

With regard to robotic design, Planchard and SolidWorks strive to encourage students to design "robots with a real purpose" — not just robots that clobber each other, but robots that might perform some sort of biomedical or biological exploration function. Planchard said that it is robots with purpose that really get girls interested and involved with design.

Certification Programs
For the past several years SolidWorks has put forth much effort to create and administer its certification programs. Once earned, they are significant credentials that can be highly regarded and a distinguishing factor in a competitive job market. The program offers two basic levels of certification.

Certified SolidWorks Associate (CSWA) is a fundamental skills examination. A CSWA has demonstrated an ability to design parts and assemblies using core SolidWorks features. The CSWA proves fundamental 3D competency for the purposes of getting at least an entry-level design job. The models that are created are either 100% right or wrong. There is no partial credit, and this can be an eye-opening experience for many who take the exam, according to Planchard. The minimum passing grade is 70%.

Certified SolidWorks Professional (CSWP) is an advanced skills examination. A CSWP has proven his or her ability to design and analyze parametric parts and assemblies using more complex SolidWorks features and capabilities. The minimum passing grade is 75%. Additional advanced and specialized CSWP credentials are available for sheet metal, COSMOSWorks, and surfacing.

Obviously, SolidWorks has put forth a lot of resources for education on many different levels and remains just as committed moving forward for the benefit of students, teachers, professional users, and the design community as a whole. Planchard summed things up by saying, "The company is much more involved with education than just giving software away."

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

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