In my 13 years with SolidWorks, I never ventured out much past what I have been trained to do, and explore the outreaches of other teams. My accidental career sprouted its own wings and I became part of a team. I learned what I could from others and through technical training that related to my field. If you are a reseller or an end user, chances are at some point in the past your seat of SolidWorks went through my hands in the shipping room. But now the time to spread my wings and see if I can grow with SolidWorks.
I have one of the greatest tools given to the design industry in decades, and my first lesson is modeling a box. We all have to start somewhere, and my somewhere is with Marie Planchard, the Director of Education at SolidWorks Corp. I left her office feeling nothing more than inspired and excited about a product I have never used, and a company where I’ve worked for over 13 years. What better place to start a personal journey.
“I want you to complete the tutorials inside of SolidWorks, and then I want to you to model a box. When you are done with the box, model the box from a different perspective on a different plane.”
She looked at me and smiled. Her confidence in her work helped me overcome my self-doubt about learning the software and then writing about it. Marie was a wealth of knowledge and what I learned from her that day (surprisingly enough) helped explain the success of our education program, which is based on the belief that SolidWorks can make a beneficial impact in the scholastic world, and then bringing the students to the professional world with the knowledge they need to succeed.
As a former teacher, Marie truly believes in the power of a student’s imagination. Instead of a typical lesson, she explained to me that she would tell her students to “take a product that broke in your life, measure it, caliper it, and then redesign it in SolidWorks. Make the product better.” She truly believes that any mind can create from scratch, or design a better product, given the right medium with the correct palette.
This even holds true in Marie’s personal life. She said she never could understand drawing on a draft board in 2D. “When I was drafting on a board using a pencil, I was told I may want to seek another career path. I questioned everything. I got a job in school and the job was at odd working hours in the print room at the college, when no one was around. It was just me, the printers, and this large green box, with Medusa. While I worked, I modeled in 3D with Medusa and learned my first CAD at my printing job.” She had found her medium. This was how she would let the world see how her mind works.
In the hour I spent with Marie I learned that there are still educators out in the field, or working for organizations that want to bring educational tools to the schools, who still believe in the creativity of children–and adults. These educators are fighting for the tools their students need to prepare for the future. Marie believes that SolidWorks is this tool, and it is one that can benefit users of all ages. Before she agreed to teach SolidWorks in the classroom, the company sent her a demo version to play with at home. Her husband had gone to get a bottle of wine, and by the time he got back, Marie had designed the empty wine glass sitting next to her. This intrigued her, and she continued to design through the night, letting her thoughts go through the mouse and onto the screen, utilizing every bit of the tool given to her.
At some point the next morning, Marie’s daughter woke up, walked to the computer desk, and sat on her lap. After just a few quick lessons, Marie had a five year old using SolidWorks to create boxes on top of boxes in 3D. Marie called SolidWorks that day and said she would teach the program, but she wanted access to the user groups also. It was important to not just give the students access to a revolution in design, but to also make sure that they could find employment and share experiences with other users.
Marie was excited the day she saw her daughter designing in SolidWorks, and she still gets just as excited talking about the product she’s now helping to distribute to millions of students in thousands of programs globally. She talked to me about the new features in SolidWorks 2014 with the look of a child opening a present on Christmas morning. There is commitment and passion to a product that revolutionized an industry, and has developed a cult following both in the scholastic and industrial world.
Marie built a team that was as excited as she was about SolidWorks. This team has fought to remove the barrier of entry to the engineering world for millions of students, and they are continually sponsoring events globally and distributing software to students. They host events such as contests to build efficient zero emission cars and sponsor teams that build and design off road go karts for school competitions. All of their efforts and help do not go unnoticed. When you walk into Marie’s office, you see plaques of appreciation from students around the world, and thank you letters thanking the team for helping them to move their ideas from their minds to a computer. The team has utilized every tool possible to reach out to students and give them the tools they need to be successful in school and in their future career paths.
What I learned most of all in my talk with Marie is that in order to be successful, there has to be a belief in an idea. That idea breeds a passion, and that passion carries through to the world. Passion is seeing the path half-way and creating the rest yourself. Marie epitomizes everything SolidWorks was built on–a passion for engineering, using a tool that would change the design world forever. It’s an idea that everyone and anyone can use to see their visions come alive. It’s the idea that creativity at all levels of education still exists, and there is a way we can grasp it.
I say this being more excited about learning SolidWorks and seeing my visions come alive. But before I do, I have to model a box…