How Siemens Solid Edge is Empowering a New Generation of Engineers

Teaching CAD to students might seem a steep hill to climb, but Solid Edge's new streamlined UI and online teaching aids can turn that climb into a sprint.

Nurturing interest in STEM education at the high school level is an important and difficult challenge for educators across the world. Motivating students to invest time and effort into any subject is hard enough already, and it only gets worse when it comes to what many students see as particularly difficult or straining subjects.

This can be especially challenging when students don’t have access to or can’t realistically grasp the possibilities of STEM education. However, thanks to technological advancements such as 3D printing, cloud-based sharing, and online collaboration, it’s now possible for even high school students to take part in ambitious (and sometimes international) engineering projects. One of the tools that makes this possible comes courtesy of Siemens, with its Solid Edge CAD software.

Computer Science, Robotics and CAD teacher; Mr. Prakash 'Jad' Jadeja. (Image courtesy of DSHS.)

Computer Science, Robotics and CAD teacher; Mr. Prakash ‘Jad’ Jadeja. (Image courtesy of DSHS.)

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Prakash Jadeja, a Career and Technical Education and Robotics teacher at Dripping Springs High School in Texas, to hear how industry-standard tools such as Solid Edge are helping his students excel in the classroom. 

First, let’s take a quick look at the school. Located close to Austin, Texas, DSHS offers students an academic program similar to that found in colleges and universities, allowing students to focus their studies around specialized fields. Mr. Jadeja – or ‘Jad’, as he likes to be called – is attached to the Engineering and Computer Science department, where he also teaches robotics, programming, CAD classes, and more. Thanks to the efforts of Jad’s department, DSHS became the first high school in Texas to be designated an MIT ‘Fab Lab’, granting them the endorsement and cooperation of the famed engineering school.

Jad started teaching five years ago, after a career involved in the industry where he worked with companies such as Apple and Siemens as well as various start-ups. He helped reintroduce a CAD class last year, and feels strongly about the need for CAD expertise among engineering students: “CAD is one of these subjects that I feel if we can get our students to get at least a basic understanding, that can help them in college very much.” 

So, you might be asking yourself, where does Solid Edge fit into all this? Well, Jad’s students are involved in a number of engineering competitions, one of these being the ‘BEST’ robotics challenge. This competition challenges students to construct a machine that can complete a set of predetermined tasks, but with one catch – your machine has to be built exclusively with materials you wouldn’t be surprised to find in a backyard toolshed. At Jad’s request, Siemens introduced his students to Professor John Devitry of Utah State University, who provided an online curriculum on Udemy for some of the students who wanted to create parts for their robot in Solid Edge. According to Jad, “Within 3 weeks they had started producing parts, and six weeks later, we went to our regional competition and came second, moving on to state level.” 

The DSHS 'F1 in schools' team competing at the World Finals 2016. (Image courtesy of DSHS.)

The DSHS ‘F1 in schools’ team competing at the World Finals 2016. (Image courtesy of DSHS.)

After this success, they started using Solid Edge for all future CAD design competitions. Jad said that Solid Edge was remarkably easy for students to pick up: “We did a comparison with Solid Works, and students preferred Solid Edge because they could learn it quicker.” According to Jad, the synchronous technology (ST) of Solid Edge develops critical thinking and logic skills. In addition, Siemens provides Solid Edge licenses to students and schools for free, making it even more appealing to both students and educators. 

Rendering of a solar-powered car created by senior students at DSHS. (Image courtesy of DSHS.)

Rendering of a solar-powered car created by senior students at DSHS. (Image courtesy of DSHS.)

According to Jad, an important part of not just CAD education in particular, but STEM education in general, is having students transfer their skills into the real world: “If students were given the chance to actually experience what they’re learning, I think it will stick better, and as an educator, I think that we should offer them that kind of activity where when they learn a concept they are able to go and try it out.” Solid Edge gives students the freedom to try out unique new designs, as well as easy 3D printing courtesy of its pre-print digital modeller. In addition to complex quadrocopters and race cars, Jad’s students have also used Solid Edge to express artistic vision, with two students designing a custom chain and pendant as a Christmas present to their mother.

Aerodynamic testing of a solar car developed for a senior project. (Image courtesy of DSHS.)

Aerodynamic testing of a solar car developed for a senior project. (Image courtesy of DSHS.)

Solid Edge features a new, streamlined user interface that can be customized to reduce the learning curve for newcomers. With a number of preset themes and command ribbons, the software can be adjusted to support work in particular industries or areas of focus. In addition, a large number of tutorials and other Solid Edge learning materials are available online. As Jad observed, “To be able to do stress analysis with Solid Edge Simulation took the students maybe an hour of watching a video and then going in and doing it.”

The use of Solid Edge in educational institutions is also enhanced by its cloud capabilities, with each student able to create a unique profile and access their work from any machine, whether at home or at school. This can also be useful during inter-school collaboration, such as the ‘F1 in Schools‘ competition, where students design and build a miniature race car using CAD tools. Solid Edge’s cloud capabilities allow students from different schools to work together on such a project – capabilities which can prove equally useful in an industry setting.

This eased learning curve, together with cloud-support and a treasure trove of online tutorials, makes Solid Edge a good contender for one of the best educational CAD offerings out there. To learn more about Siemens Solid Edge software and how it can serve as an educational stepping stone, follow this link.

Siemens PLM has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input to this post. All opinions are mine. — Johan Keyter