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Engineering Classes Aided by 3D Design Software

SolidWorks software supports districts’ engineering programs with CAD capabilities

Prospective engineering students at K-12 schools nationwide are tapping into SolidWorks 3D CAD software to prepare them for the mechanical engineering courses they’ll study in college.

In North Carolina, for example, junior and senior high school students in the Wake County (N.C.) Public School System (WCPSS), one of the fastest growing school districts in the country, are getting a head start on engineering careers with SolidWorks. WCPSS has standardized pre-engineering instruction on SolidWorks and is using 425 licenses of SolidWorks in 17 high schools in the Raleigh area to teach students three-dimensional computeraided design (3D CAD) basics.

"The engineers of tomorrow need to
learn their craft as early as possible."

WCPSS serves more than 104,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade in 125 schools. The school system is located in the Research Triangle, a hotbed of high technology research and education formed by North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Duke University in Durham, and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The school system has installed30 seats of SolidWorks software in each of its 17 high schools to open a window for juniors and seniors to quickly learn solid modeling fundamentals.

"The Wake County Public School System has become one of the success stories in education in the country partly because we provide our students with the best educational tools available," says Craig Pendergraft, senior administrator for technology education.

John Geraghty, a drafting teacher at Southeast Raleigh High School, uses SolidWorks to teach second-level drafting students to design gears, cams, pistons, crankshafts, and other mechanical basics in 3D CAD. Students use SolidWorks 3D CAD software to visualize their designs as solid models. "Students can look at a part designed in SolidWorks and easily understand how it was created, and the manufacturing that will eventually go into it," said Geraghty. "Seeing that process helps students create designs that others can understand as well. SolidWorks is the 3D CAD software that professional engineers use most often, so it makes sense for us to expose students to the tools that they’ll be using in college and in their careers."

Some districts are introducing the 3D CAD software even earlier in the process. The Thompson School District in North Central Colorado, for example, has purchased 160 licenses of SolidWorks Education Edition software to give students — beginning in the seventh grade — every possible advantage in their education and careers.

Located in an area that includes parts of Boulder County and southern Fort Collins , the district will use the SolidWorks Education Edition to teach design and engineering to students throughout the district's five middle schools and five high schools. District representatives say they selected SolidWorks software over competing offerings because of the product's quality, its superior technical support, its high level of usage in area businesses, and its dominance in colleges and universities. The SolidWorks Education Edition also includes COSMOS analysis software, which helps students develop important problem-solving skills while they analyze their designs, and allows them to test materials and factors of safety.

SolidWorks software was also the specific recommendation of business community advisors to Thompson School District , who cited SolidWorks' prevalence in the region's industry.

Middle-schoolers will use SolidWorks as part of an industrial technology curriculum that progresses from 2D to 3D and culminates in the design and construction of sophisticated products like CO2-powered dragsters that students actually race. “It's critical in today's world of heightened global competition that the engineers of tomorrow start learning their craft as early as possible and in all three dimensions,” says Ben Deason, the district's middle school curriculum representative and an industrial technology teacher at Lucile Erwin Middle School. “SolidWorks is the right tool since it's the number one 3D mechanical design product in industry and in our evaluation, in terms of quality, reliability, and ease of use.”

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