“The user group community provides an invaluable resource for users to brainstorm and resolve issues with design approaches and models and in general, communicate with like-minded professionals. Most of the users are willing to offer suggestions, ideas, and/or techniques which will help others save time and grow as a SOLIDWORKS user. Collectively, this is one of the most open and available groups of professionals I have ever worked with. Since we do not have any fees or cost, anyone can join the group and attend the meetings.”
We have been chatting to a true SOLIDWORKS advocate, James Adkins. He’s a Department Head of the Computer Aided Design Technology program at Alamance Community College, in Alamance County NC. He is also the group leader and founder of the Burlington-Alamance County North Carolina SOLIDWORKS User Group (BACoN SWUG), as well as the founder of Southern VA SOLIDWORKS User Group (SoVA SWUG).
At his current position, he is responsible for the curriculum development, instruction and general supervision of the department. “I teach CAD, SOLIDWORKS, Design, Solid Modeling, and engineering technology classes. I am presently entering my 21st year in higher education and have enjoyed almost every moment of it.” Prior to entering education, James spent 13 years in industrial engineering and design. He worked on a wide variety of projects, including working on DOD top secret submarine and aircraft carrier components, car wash equipment and even facility and equipment design with Nestle Refrigerated Food Co. This diverse background provides the basis upon which he now teaches to his students; “My Mechanical Engineering degree from Old Dominion University has served me well over the years but my design degree from Danville Community College in VA. established my desire to pursue a career in design.”
Amazingly, James only started using SOLIDWORKS in late 2014, when he began using it in his classroom instead of another CAD program. He has since then incorporated it into advanced drafting and solid modeling classes and lab component for Mechanics, Fluid Mechanics, and Machine Design classes.
If James wasn’t in the engineering industry he believed he’d still be training other professionals; “after the last few years in working with SOLIDWORKS, both the company and the software, I would now say that my job would be to work with the user group network in some capacity that would help the groups grow and reach new members. This would involve bridging the gap between education and industry so that true partnerships could emerge. I have become an advocate of the opportunities that are available through partners as well as the benefits to users of all types. To promote the education, training, and comradery that exists within user groups would be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
In his spare time James likes to work with home owners by designing remodeling plans or new construction residential plans. He also helps his wife at her flower shop on his holidays (Gallery Florist and Gifts, Inc. in Mebane). On Saturday mornings, you will probably be able to find him on the road hitting the local yard sales in search of the ever-elusive treasure. “I have been fortunate enough to find a few over the years. Anytime someone ask me where I found a “cool” item, I laughingly respond “Yardsales-R-US of America” the best shopping known to man”
Another passion of James’ is that; “twice each week I pick up baked goods from a local bakery and share them with students, friends, and associates at the college. If I know of a local family that can use the items I will often deliver them as well. I have done this for the last 6 or so years. It always brings about a smile when you share something with others.”
The SOLIDWORKS User Group journey began for James in 2015 when he started his original user group, SoVA SWUG in Danville, VA. “A friend, Roland Flego had several years of SOLIDWORKS experience, mentioned that he would like to see a local user group get started. I did some research and contacted Richard Doyle through the SWUGN website. One thing led to another and I found my first user group and Roland became the coleader. While I still lead that group, due to a job change, I now have plans in place to transfer it to Roland. I know he will do great things with SoVA SWUG so keep your eyes out for him to get going.”
More recently, James “founded the Burlington-Alamance County NC. SOLIDWORKS User Group, BACoN SWUG, which is a new user group (founded Jan, 2017) nestled in North Central North Carolina.”
James created the group after he learned that there were many SOLIDWORKS users in the area that didn’t participate in any groups. After successfully connecting with local businesses that use the software, he now has 45 users on his mailing list and he has had two meetings. “I plan to hold 8 to 10 meetings annually so that all members have ample opportunities to attend at least 6 meetings in a year. One of the best parts with the new group thus far has been in deciding upon a name and developing the logo. I have joined an elite crew of users known as the #BACONBrotherhood (if you have never heard of these guys, make plans to attend SOLIDWORKS WORLD 2018). It seemed like a perfect fit to incorporate Bacon into the new group name.” Inspiringly, James didn’t choose to lead the group; he believed it presented itself as an opportunity; “opportunity to foster a professional network for local users, including students as well as industry users. Both education and industry coming together to promote and combine new technology with professional skills which allow all members to grow and get to know each other.”
In addition to leading the two user groups, James also attends the Piedmont Triad SWUG in Greensboro NC, as he believes it is important to support other groups and encourage other leaders in their efforts. “I have been attending their meetings for a little over a year and have developed a good friend in Steve Frick who is the leader of this group.”
The user groups provide a platform for students to benefit from training and networking with professionals who may one day hire them. Professionals benefit from the group by meeting prospective new hires and professional development, as well as discovering new ways to develop training opportunities and becoming familiar with local educators.
We asked James what was the best meeting he has had and he responded: “tough choice as we have had some great meetings. We have been privileged to have had several special guests with us from SOLIDWORKS Corporate including Richard Doyle and Sal Lama. Other special presenters included TriMechs’ Eman Kim and Justin Lingerfelt. These guys have all been amazing and all were great to work with. I believe the best meeting is always next one coming up because of the anticipation of waiting to see what more we learn from the presentation, its like having Christmas once a month.”
“I have learned that I will never know everything about SOLIDWORKS. The more meetings I attend, the more I realize there is a wealth of functionality within the software that I never knew existed. In the limited time I have with my students, I hope to expand their skills by introducing them to as many facets of the program as possible. Regardless of how experienced you are with SOLIDWORKS, you can always learn something!”
Additionally, James recognizes the sponsorship that SOLIDWORKS provides to user groups. “Not only do they fund the cost of food and video equipment cost of the meetings but they also provide door prizes. The level of support provided is amazing as is the efforts of the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network team. They are great! Thank you all.”
Lastly, James wanted to express an appreciation for the co-sponsors who provide presenters, door prizes, and facilities. “The user groups are better because of the efforts these organizations make. Thank you VARS, Partners and educational entities that often provide meeting facilities at no cost. We are all partners working together pushing each other up.”