Feb 9, 2016 | By Alec

This year’s SolidWorks World convention again proved to feature numerous interesting technological innovations, but there was also a special target group. Where the previous edition focused on getting women to become more interested in engineering, this year’s edition focused especially on kids from the ages of 4 to 14. In an effort to get young children more interested in STEM, SolidWorks is launching the Apps for Kids program, to offer them a playful way of getting interested in science, art and design. Through the App, which will be made available in the spring of 2016, every design stage from an idea to 3D printing will be made available in a fun, intuitive and educational way.

This is just the latest highlight coming from SolidWorks World, which was held last week in Dallas, Texas. One of the most significant announcements revealed a new focus on 3D printing, which will see SolidWorks incorporating material selection and Sindoh 3D printers into their software. But this clearly isn’t all, as SolidWorks has also set its sight on the kids. SolidWorks, of course, is a truly professional piece of design software – meaning a lot of options, but a lot of pitfalls too. It’s no wonder many beginning users are advised to look elsewhere, and it might be the last place where you would look for kid-friendly software – but this is about to change.

At the convention, Marie Planchard, director of education portfolio at Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks, explained that getting kids hooked on the sciences is a complex problem. There is something called the 6th grade hurdle. “If you can get kids interested before the 7th grade, then their chances of going into an engineering or science path is much greater. We want to get kids interested when they are most impressionable and open to learning new things,” they explain. And that’s exactly the sector where parents should want to see their kids going. Back in 2009, the US Department of Labor revealed that eight of the ten most wanted employees in the country can be found in STEM fields: accounting, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, information sciences and systems, computer engineering, civil engineering, and economics and finance. In fact, the market for STEM jobs is growing at 17%, whereas other sectors are growing at just 9.8%.

So how do you get them there? “How many of us knew when you were young that design, problem solving, creating things and engineering was an actual thing you could do with your life? We wished we knew that and started earlier, for that reason we created SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids,” the SolidWorks team explains. In a nutshell, they are working on a design app for children featuring intuitive, engaging options that don’t scare them off immediately. Called SOLIDWORKS Apps for Kids, it essentially combines all the aspects of the design workflow into a single app with fun, bite-size options that enable kids to have fun and learn about design, art, creativity and the sciences without even knowing it.

To enable that, SolidWorks Apps for Kids includes the following options:

  • Capture It: to capture ideas through photos, videos and soundbites on an inspiration board.
  • Shape It: To turn any idea into 3D shapes.
  • Style It: to paint and style designs, add accessories and more.
  • Mech It: design moving mechanisms or complex artistic drawings.
  • Show It: to allow kids to share their designs and tell the design story.
  • Print It: to 3D print designs in 2D or 3D.

Importantly, all these app functions overlap and all files can be easily copied to the next function, meaning parents won’t have to struggle with file formats and transferring. According to Chinloo Lama, a senior user experience design engineer at SolidWorks, the app has been set up in such a fashion that children won’t even realize that they’re learning valuable skills for their future. The emphasis is on fun, he argues. It’s not about giving kids extra homework, but about giving them a hobby. Through clear images rather than words, even kids so young that they can’t read very well can play with it.

But of course when talking about design aimed at children, the link is easily made with Minecraft. Learning valuable lessons from that immensely successful game, SolidWorks will also be looking at creating a safe community environment where kids can share their designs and modify the works of others, but without creating another socially risky environment where inappropriate objects are shared or kids are bullied. The age gaps between the youngest and the older users will definitely be taken into consideration, they say. To realize this, third-party solutions might be incorporated into the system.

Obviously, this could be great news for parents who own a 3D printer and want to share a hobby with their kids, but Planchard further emphasized that this wasn’t about selling 3D printers – but about educating. Incidentally this new kid-friendly approach will be linked up with the Sindoh 3D printers that, as we saw last week, will be incorporated into SolidWorks software. So if you’re looking for a complete kid-friendly making environment, that might be just the type of machines you need. If you’re interested in getting your kid familiar with SolidWorks Apps for Kids, you can now sign them up for the Beta program this spring. The release is scheduled for the spring 2016, and aims to be part of the SolidWorks Education Edition Academic Year 2016-2017.



Posted in 3D Software



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