Last year, our Community and User Advocacy Manager, Rachel York, interviewed a mechanical engineering entrepreneur from Texas A&M University, who used SOLIDWORKS to help create his own business. This year, Rachel and I wanted to catch up with him.
This student is none other than rising junior, Tyler Wooten; the man who stepped up in figuring out a way for visually impaired students to no longer feel inhibited around college or business campuses. Tyler came up with an idea of creating a 3D map for these students, so that they could memorize a campus based on the slight elevation of each building, along with each building’s braille name being incorporated onto it.
He thought of this idea when he started working with 3D printers in one of his engineering classes, but was really inspired to create this product when he met his future colleague, Kaitlyn Kellermeyer. Kaitlyn unfortunately lost her vision during her freshman year at Texas A&M, but also worked on her Wind Chimes Project as a senior last year, to support visually impaired students like herself. Her project strategically positioned various wind chimes around the Texas A&M campus, so blind students can essentially hear where they are on campus. After first meeting her, Tyler went right to work in complementing Kaitlyn’s project. He started teaching himself how to use SOLIDWORKS, and after over ten hours of watching tutorial sessions and creating the map from scratch, he finally had his first copy for what would be the start of his non-profit, the Assistive Mapping Project.
This is where Tyler left off last fall, but with the direction his non-profit was heading in, I had to schedule a follow up interview to ask him about the progress he has made; with both his non-profit and other innovations that he has up his sleeve. If you would like to catch up on his previous interview with Rachel, click here.
The non-profit that you created, Assistive Mapping Project, has been something that you’ve wanted to do as an entrepreneur while you were in college. Last year, I know you wanted to spread your non-profit to other schools and organizations, so I first want to ask you, what other schools have you been involved with since we last talked with you in October?
“We’ve got both Blinn College in Brenham (Texas) and Blinn College in Bryan (Texas) that we’ve already completed a process for. Right now we’re doing a summer camp and then we’ll start reaching out to others once the process is really lined out…Honestly our website we have, we’re open to anyone reaching out to us and adding themselves to the cue, but right now we’re just going to reach out to schools as we can and who ever will accept us, we’ll take it.”
What are some aspects that you’ve built upon your non-profit since you started it?
“One of the things that we recently implemented was a training process for someone who has no CAD or SOLIDWORKS experience, and from start to finish they can pick a campus anywhere in the world by following this training program I made. They can start with nothing and then end with SOLIDWORKS experience and also a map for some other campus or some other location. I’ve already finished the training, and one of the Assistive Mapping Project co-founders, Russell Geyer, who is the first one going through that process right now. He’s making a map for a blind and visually impaired summer camp. He just sent me over the first draft yesterday and we’re going to look through it together and just try to find any holes in the process. Then, once we finish that project here in the next two weeks or so, I’ll start opening it up to other engineers to join in and we’ll be able to open the process up and create a map for any college campus.”
As part of your training program, I wouldn’t expect someone to go to the level of associate, but is that a part of your program?
“One of my roommates, Jonathan Chiu, has gone through this training process already and he got his Certified SOLIDWORKS Associates in three days, after watching all the videos. We’re trying to incorporate those videos into our training to help people get familiar with SOLIDWORKS along the way.”
Does your SOLIDWORKS certification help your efficiency in creating maps and your training program?
“Yeah, definitely. Along the way I just got addicted to learning more about SOLIDWORKS and I kept finding out small little tricks from these videos and just being able to apply those to the map. I’m sure there’s still a lot more I don’t know that could help me in the future to maybe make the process a little bit quicker, but just looking through those videos really helps me along the way.”
When you were starting off your non-profit you created the campus map for Texas A&M from scratch. Have you redesigned the way you create your maps since you started?
“Besides from just looking, that way is actually not quite as accurate and it doesn’t keep the dimensions between the buildings as well. One really good way to do it is, we’ll take in a bird’s eye view of the campus and trace out on top of the buildings to see the size of them in relation to each other. Another one that’s really cool that I did for the large A&M campus map that’s going to be coming out really soon is, I talked to the guy that actually creates the online maps of A&M and he gave me the raw DXF files of all the campuses, roads and buildings, and I directly imported those into SOLIDWORKS so that I had dimensional accuracy on these buildings working down to 10 feet. It was really cool working with that, learning how to use that whole process.”
Do you use a drone to take a bird’s eye view of the whole campus?
“That’s a good question, so what makes our process a lot easier is if the college campus or whatever I’m making a map for, already has some kind of map drawn out. I wouldn’t say cartoonish, but they have their own map created to help people walk around. It’s easier to trace off of those. With the summer camp map, one thing we’re trying out as well is doing it from Google Maps. Being able to trace over a Google Maps screen shot and we’re still experimenting with that one, trying to see how that one works out.”
Is Kaitlyn Kellermeyer’s Wind Chimes Project still continuing on Texas A&M’s campus?
“That is still continuing. They actually set up an endowment, so based off of the interest earned off of a bank account they set up, they can restore and replace those wind chimes as need be, so that’s completely taken over by another section of campus so that they can continue her legacy, of sorts.”
Other than the Assistive Mapping Project, has there been anything else you’ve innovated in SOLIDWORKS since we talked with you last October?
“Oh man, I’ve been working with SOLIDWORKS like crazy. I think I’ve built either containers or holsters for pretty much everything in my room; I’ve even pimped out my 3D printer. One funny thing I’m doing now is I’m making bath bombs. At A&M we have a lot of sororities and I’m actually going to start in the next month or two. I’ve already set up the business and I’m creating the website. I have a recipe and everything like that, but the trick is with these bath bombs is using SOLIDWORKS to create a mold that has the sorority’s logo or their letters on it. Then I can create a bath bomb that has that same logo on it. I feel like a big part of entrepreneurship is just getting out there and trying it. Failing hard, failing fast and then just getting back up on your feet, but another little cool thing our bath bomb business is we have these jumbo bath bombs that can fit a floating LED rose inside of them, so you basically just toss the thing in the bath tub and then a floating rose pops out. And it changes colors and everything like that.”
I have one more question for you. So, I understand Rachel (York) shipped you out to SOLIDWORKS World, and I was wondering how the event enhanced your knowledge with SOLIDWORKS, and how it also impacted your work with the Assistive Mapping Project.
“I had a blast at SOLIDWORKS World. I met so many cool people. I thought I was good at SOLIDWORKS until I went to SOLIDWORKS World and realized that these people were putting me to shame. I hadn’t even scratched the surface yet, but it was so cool just networking with everyone and just learning these little tips. Actually, one big thing that I got from SOLIDWORKS World that helps with Assistive Mapping Project was that I took one of those classes on how to handle large assemblies or large files in SOLIDWORKS. When I was importing the DXF files of the entire campus into SOLIDWORKS, it was just crashing and I was having an awful time, until I looked over my notes and saw some settings I could change. After that it worked like a charm and I could keep that high quality in the map as well.”
I also came into contact with, Michael Lord, who is a longtime SOLIDWORKS user and one of Tyler’s fans that was introduced to him at SOLIDWORKS World.
“I had the good fortune to meet Tyler at SOLIDWORKS World 2017. I had read of his achievements, as a freshman at Texas A&M University and jumped at the opportunity to have a talk with him. It is hard not to be impressed by this young man! He displays so many great attributes, from his empathy for his fellow students, to his desire and determination, and also his engineering practically. If he sees a problem, he fixes a problem. I feel a certain comfort that the world is in far safer hands with Tyler, and many of his generation.”
Aside from SOLIDWORKS, Tyler enjoys programming in Python, riding his booster board, flying drones, and reading business books. He is a motivated individual who has a bright future ahead of him; and his two-by-two foot map (pictured below), of the Texas A&M campus, will soon be displayed in the Student Memorial Center! If you’re interested in Tyler’s non-profit, you can check out his website for the project here. Thanks for reading!