Inspiring Students through SOLIDWORKS Certification

Today at SOLIDWORKS World 2016 in Dallas, Texas, more than 350 hopefuls will be attempting SOLIDWORKS certification exams. There are another 180+ on the waiting list, hoping to get into a room. I wish you all the best of luck, and for some inspiration, I’d like to introduce you to guest blogger, Dean Kerste. Dean is a SOLIDWORKS User Group leader with 30 years of experience in industry and education as a mechanical designer and professor in the state of Michigan.

Richard Doyle and Dean Kerste
Richard Doyle and Dean Kerste

Teaching is not just about relaying information or requiring students to memorize rote facts…it’s about inspiring students…inspiring students to learn to “love learning.” As a professor at a small community college in southeast Michigan I teach several classes in the Mechanical Design program. Classes ranging from blueprint reading, mechanical drafting, geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, parametric modeling, among others.

One thing I have come to learn, after more than two decades as an educator, is to understand that in a community college setting we have people from all walks of life, all ages, who bring to the classroom many different life experiences, stories and expectations. A typical class may consist of recent high school graduates entering the design program, to a person who is taking a class to acquire new job skills. The same class may have students who are “starting over in life” looking for a fresh start, to a person who is taking the class for a personal, life-enrichment experience. Having such diverse classrooms leads to a number of challenges in finding means and methods to convey topics to students with varying degrees of expectations and backgrounds.

No matter how diverse the student body, one common thread I have found in teaching a successful class is to INSPIRE students. First, inspiring students requires the teacher to be passionate about the subject and to share their passion. Second, explain the reason behind learning a technique or topic. If the students do not understand the importance of a lesson it will be disregarded as irrelevant and their interest in the subject will be lost. Third, teach for understanding. If students do not understand the material they will become bored and lose interest. Finally, and in my opinion the most important way to inspire is to be supportive, kind, and open. Showing students you genuinely care about their well-being is sometimes all it takes for them to stay focused, enjoy learning, and be successful in a class.

One method I utilize to inspire students in my SOLIDWORKS courses is to display their accomplishments in the design lab. In my “Introduction to SOLIDWORKS – CSWA” course I use the CSWA certification exam as my final exam. I also use the CSWP certification exam as the final in the “Advanced SOLIDWORKS – CSWP” course.

Dean Kerste 1-1

When a student successfully passes the CSWA exam we print their certificate on quality stock paper for them to proudly display in their home or workplace. We also place their name in a poster in the classroom. The CSWP recipients also receive their printed certificate along with having their certificate in an 8 ½” x 11” frame to be mounted along the ceiling in the lab.

Dean Kerste 1-2

Even though we are entertaining the idea of offering short classes in the near future targeted at the CSWP Advanced Topics along with a preparatory class for the CSWE, this hasn’t stopped our students from advancing their SOLIDWORKS skills. Students who are inspired will learn whether they are in the classroom or not. Recently, we had our first student become a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert. As an educator this led to a new, yet welcomed challenge. Knowing that our CSWA recipient names were displayed in one of two large posters in the classroom along with our CSWP recipients having their certificates displayed in individual frames, we knew we had to come up with a clever idea to properly present the highest level of SOLIDWORKS certification. Now currently having three alumni students who are CSWE certified, we decided to have their certificates printed to a size of 24” x 48” and made into a ceiling tile. Their tile is now part of the design lab for other students to aspire to.

Dean Kerste 1-3

While the idea being simple, the displaying of certifications is one method to inspire students to learn new SOLIDWORKS techniques, gain more SOLIDWORKS experience, and to strive for the next level of certification. As an instructor, I most enjoy the class that follows the certification exams. When students return to class after the certification exam the first thing they do is look for their name and/or certificate in the classroom. While they don’t know I am watching them, I am. No matter the age of the student, 18…38…or 58, it’s always great to see the grin on their face when they locate their name. It’s a grin of accomplishment and satisfaction. There’s nothing more rewarding as an educator than INSPIRED students.

As always, thanks for reading! If you have a story you’d like to tell, please feel free to reach out to me at!

Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.