IUPUI Honors Educator Doug Acheson for His Dedication to Student Success

This month, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) honors Doug Acheson, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, for exemplary dedication to student development and awarding over 1000 accredited SOLIDWORKS certifications. During a surprise visit, the Department Chair, Robert Weissbach, Engineering Dean, Joseph Wallace, colleague Garrett Peterson, and students, recognized Doug for his achievements.

I was fortunate to interview Doug and Garrett Peterson, IUPUI Motorsports Engineering (MSTE) Professor of Practice, on Engineering  Graphics history, CAD legacy, current SOLIDWORKS applications, and future aspirations. Doug and Garrett both have a passion for enabling students with technology and SOLIDWORKS skills.

Marie: Doug, you have spent a lifetime teaching students.  What advice do you give your students?

Doug: My advice to students is not to “straight-arm” opportunities when they present themselves throughout their lives. In my own case, I can think of four particular instances where embracing opportunities changed the trajectory of my life.

Marie: Can you tell the SOLIDWORKS community about those instances?


Instance 1

Shortly after graduating with a degree in Industrial Illustration Technology  (IIT) at Purdue University, I agreed to take over the adjunct teaching position at Ivy Tech Community College  (IVTC) in South Bend, Indiana, of a departing General Manager I worked with during my first industry position as a Technical Illustrator. The job was to teach Technical Illustration (what we did during the day). All of my coworkers passed on the opportunity while I chose to seize it and soon, being an educator seized me.

Instance 2

Asking myself “I wonder if I can “draw” on computers what I draw by hand”. On my own nickel, I enrolled in my first CAD class at Ivy Tech Community College  IVTC using a primitive CAD program developed by the University of Minnesota called “MINN-Draft”. There were no hard drives as we know them now, so the system utilized two eight-inch floppy discs (one as a “System” disc containing the MINN-Draft program and the second a “Data” disc to archive designs). Excelling in the class, I was soon asked to teach MINN-Draft as well.

Instance 3

Becoming aware of an emerging commercial-grade CAD program called “AutoCAD”. Again, at my own expense, I took an AutoCAD class, did well and was asked to teach it shortly after. I didn’t have to (I was gainfully employed, married, had my own home, etc.), but by exploiting these given opportunities I was charting an unexpected course towards becoming a career educator. The demand for AutoCAD knowledge in industry was burgeoning, so by the spring of 1989 I was teaching four nights a week in addition to my daytime studio job. At that point (fall 1989) I transitioned to teaching full-time while free-lancing the creation of patent drawings on the side.

Instance 4

While on a one-year leave of absence to obtain my bachelor’s degree at Purdue University, I enjoyed the benefit of nearly a decade of maturity and industry affiliation. It was easy in the sense that you go to class, stay in class, pay attention and do what you’re asked…”easy” and rewarding (4.0 is pretty cool!). I also had the opportunity to be a contributing Illustrator for Dr. Gary Bertoline’s text “Technical Graphics Communication“. Taking the plunge, I opted to pursue my graduate degree whilst being asked (and paid for) delivering courses in Engineering Graphics. After a couple of years as a Visiting Instructor, I was responsible for nearly 1,000 students in a single semester! My current 27-year stint at IUPUI began in the fall of 1997.

Never envisioning being an educator, these four decisions certainly serve as a testament to avoid “straight-arming” opportunities when you are presented with them over the course of your career.

(Marie’s comment, when I first started teaching at Mass Bay Community College, I used Gary Beroline’s text! Doug Acheson was listed as the his first Acknowledgement.) and met members of the Purdue Engineering and Technology Engineering Graphics department at their main campus and through ASEE Engineering Design Graphics Division  – small world.)

Marie: Teaching for so many years, what are the “delineators” you attempt to instill in your students?

Doug: I have three delineators:

  1. Work Ethic: With the bar being set pretty low today (attendance being considered a “Soft Skill”, etc.), if you have a “Head on Your Shoulders”, then the world is your oyster.
  2. The Pencil: Don’t be afraid to pick up a pencil to ideate, communicate, calculate, instruct or maybe even TAKE NOTES! The computer DOES NOT have all the solutions.
  3. Hot Keys.: Whatever software(s) you end up using, commit to maximizing your productivity. Why is it virtually every other task we perform as humans utilizes both hands (Tying your shoes, pulling on your pants, eating a sandwich, pouring a glass of milk, etc.) while we prescribe to using just one hand to navigate icons with a mouse while our left hand is generally under our chin? I joke with my students “If you’re hourly, do as you’re usually taught and click away. If you’re bucking for a promotion, free-lancing or you’re the BOSS, embracing short cuts will certainly serve you better in the long run. It’s muscle memory just the same, why not commit to memory the FASTEST way?

To make a point on that last item, try this: When using the popular Microsoft Office suite of products (Word, Excel, PPT, etc.) press the single F4 key to repeat the last command (any command) you performed. Wow! Why didn’t they teach us that in kindergarten?

Doug then introduced me to Garrett Peterson, Motorsports Engineering (MSTE) Faculty Professor of Practice and also a provider of SOLIDWORKS Certification exams to students.

Marie: Garrett, can you tell the SOLIDWORKS community more about the Motorsports Engineering Degree at IUPUI?

Garrett: We are the only university in the United States that offers an undergraduate degree in Motorsports Engineering. Motorsports combines engineering curriculum plus vehicle dynamics, aerodynamics, data acquisition, and other motorsports-specific courses.  Integrated in these courses is SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, other SOLIDWORKS applications and multiple SOLIDWORKS certification exams.

Marie: Can you provide an example of what you teach in an introductory course?

Garrett: I teach “best practices” for motorsports.  Learn the tool and see how to effectively communicate a detailed design – accurately. Students take the Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate exam for their first industry credential.


Marie: What about advanced classes?

Garrett: We offer courses in both CAD and manufacturing .  These courses focus on group work and projects to represent how students will work for a racing team after they graduate.

Marie: We offer many SOLIDWORKS certification exams.  Why do students want to take the advanced exams?

Garrett: Students have a variety of interests.  They learn different skills – both applied and theoretical in class, team competitions, and through internships.  After students take their Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional, I allow them to take the other advanced professional certification exams in their area of interests, such as Sheetmetal or Weldments.


Marie: You offer your students many opportunities.  As you stated, student success is based on many factors like coming to office hours, sharing knowledge with others, having confidence to fail, being professional and not telling your teacher, “It’s just a CAD class!”  Can you tell us what type of projects your students work on?

Garrett: Two examples that my students worked on this year are the Ev-Cart Team and the Formula Ford Read Suspension Capstone Project.

Ev – Cart Team


Taking 1.5 years to design and build, students finally competed in the Purdue EV Grand Prix. Students placed 2nd in design and 6th in the overall race. (Primary students: Keaton Jen, Charles Schuster, and Brennan Holcombe)

The chassis was scanned to create a wireframe for SOLIDWORKS, then the weldment features were utilized to create the tube structure. The model was primarily used to figure out packaging space and center of mass. Students needed to ensure the cart’s weight was distributed correctly.

Capstone Project – Formula Ford Rear Suspension

Students redesigned the Rear Suspension of Formula Ford to improve race handling. (Students: Wyatt Bible, Jeryn Fast, Drew Fryman)

Students used SOLIDWORKS to figure out kinematics of vehicles and defined the contact points of the  suspension system. Students designed upright with mounts and proper hardware.

FEA was applied to figure out tire loads acting on the vehicle.


The Near Future

There are changes now for students and their mentors.  Doug will be teaching an advanced course in Motorsports Engineering.  Garrett will continue leading Motorsports Engineering and take on the SOLIDWORKS Academic Provider role, certifying more Engineering Technology Students in SOLIDWORKS credentials at IUPUI. Further down the road, I hope to convince Doug that being a SolidWorks User Group Leader might be in his future. Maybe I can work on getting Doug and Garrett to return to 3DEXPERIENCE World and submit a breakout session abstract!

As of July 1, 2024  IUPUI will transition to Indiana University – Indianapolis to strengthen their educational offerings to students in central Indiana and beyond.

Thank you Annette Norris , for our reseller, GoEngineer, for supporting Doug and Garrett and introducing me to these dedicated educators.  Thank you Doug and Garrett for your passion to inspire your students and your utilization of SOLIDWORKS in and out of the classroom.

Design well, Marie

Marie Planchard

Marie Planchard

Senior Director, Early Engagement, 3DEXPERIENCE Works at Dassault Systemes
Marie Planchard is an education and engineering advocate. As Senior Director of Education & Early Engagement, SOLIDWORKS, she is responsible for global development of content and social outreach for the 3DEXPERIENCE Works products across all levels of learning including educational institutions, Fab Labs, and entrepreneurship.
Marie Planchard