SolidWorks World 1999 – Palm Springs

First in a series of SolidWorks World recaps

My first SolidWorks World couldn’t have started off better. I submitted a technical session abstract that was accepted and SolidWorks granted me free admission to the conference as a speaker. That was enough for my employer at the time to spring for the travel and accommodation expenses. I flew in to Orange County and rented a car for the two hour drive to Palm Springs. I got a free upgrade from the rental car company, and cruised in style in a Mustang convertible which made the long drive seem way too short. The resort was opulent, the accommodations outstanding. I knew that this was going to be a great few days, and the first evening reception did nothing to change that feeling. Tons of food, plenty to drink, and hundreds of SolidWorks users in an outdoor atrium setting lit up with tiki lamps around the pool.

The keynote speaker was Caleb Chung, the creator of the Furby, an interactive toy that was taking the nation by storm at the time. During his very good speech he erroneously referred to an SLS part (selective laser sintering – a rapid prototyping process) as an SLA (a competitors RP process) part. I later took the opportunity to make a light-hearted introduction (it’s an SLS part buddy – powder, not goop!!). Mr. Chung was very gracious and we spoke for several minutes about RP and the benefits he realized by using it during the development of the Furby toy.

The best technical session I attended was presented by Bob Noftle, then with Cimlogic, the original developer of ToolBox. I expected a full on sales pitch, but the information we received during the session was technically oriented and really showed what this fine product could do. The one-hour session was enough to convince me to recommend the product back home. Several of the attendees (including myself) spent nearly an hour afterward just talking shop with Mr. Noftle. Outstanding!

My technical session was scheduled for Saturday, and I was very nervous. I knew the material and had rehearsed it to death. But this was my first time in front of more than the 8 or 9 people that usually constituted a design review back at the shop. Patrick Maher of SolidWorks Corporation quickly became my new best friend. Pat’s job was to introduce me at my session, and he was there early to reassure me, make sure I had everything I needed, and go over the details of the next hour or so. He got me a glass of water, helped me calm down a little, and offered some words of encouragement. I thought my presentation came off as dry and over-rehearsed. But the Q & A session that followed was very good. The audience participated thoroughly, and it turned into more of a discussion than a presentation. It was then I realized what a technical conference should be about – interacting and helping each other solve design and product development issues.

One of my favorite stories to tell involves a user presentation. Phil Sluder was due to present his first ever SolidWorks World Tips and Tricks session in a room that might have seated 40 people comfortably. I was lucky enough to get a seat, but dozens of unfortunate souls that arrived a little late spent the next 90 minutes or so on tiptoes looking over the crowd that had gathered out the door and down the hall. I think they took turns peeking in and trying to see whatever they could of this outstanding session. Needless to say, Mr. Sluder was provided with a bigger room the next year.

I spent most of the evenings with a contingent from my home state of Texas. I had only met a couple of these people before, but I still hear from all of them regularly, and have developed a couple of very good friendships as a result. To me, the best thing about bringing together SolidWorks users from around the world is that we immediately have something in common, and are presented with a huge amount of things to talk about. It doesn’t hurt that we all have a passion for SolidWorks software as well.

Only 18 days til SolidWorks World 2006!

Next..Bourbon Street, gumbo, and SNUG

Matthew West

SolidWorks alumnus. I like plate reverb, Rat pedals, Thai curry, New Weird fiction, my kids, Vespas, Jazzmasters, my wife & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not necessarily in that order.