Siemens PLM Software, SolidWorks, and ZCorp are hardly the only design tool vendors stepping up their efforts to foster students' interest and commitment in science and engineering. Hardly a week goes by without some press release coming my way outlining a vendor's software donation to a univership or sponsorship of some design contest. I applaud all of these efforts. Any thing we can do to foster the next generation's commitment to engineering and science pursuits is a good thing.
While there are obviously positive things that come from this, it seems that it is really just the next step in the marketing efforts. When I was getting my BSEE about 20 years ago, the big companies at that time were focusing on hardware. We received a number of cool technologies such as some of the first digital o-scopes from HP (I think). The general idea at that time was to get the students to get comfortable with the new technologies and then be making the recommendations in their companies. The year after I had my drafting/CAD course, the school got a good deal and went Autocad all the way, and this was before that product was the default that it is today.
No doubt, Jack, this has a huge marketing impact for vendor,s and absolutely, if students get exposure and a comfort level with a tool in class, they'll likely be prone to want to use it in their subsquent professional lives. Nevertheless, it's still a great resource for up and coming engineers and excellent exposure to tools they'll rely on for the remainder of their professional careers. I see a win-win here.
Marketing and education go hand in hand. When you get in the working world, it is natural to gravitate to what you know, so it is great to see new technology used in higher education. Teaching students with extinct versions of CADkey, Catia, or Fortran does not really prepare graduates for the real world. The folks at Solidworks definitely know what they are doing in offering software to colleges for students to learn. It also helps students in getting internships in engineering positions before graduation.
A good lesson/opportunity for the younger people who are looking to get an internship. Any skill that you can get for free or a minimal cost that can help you in your future career is great. And when there are so many students competing for the same internships it is always good to have a leg up on the competitors.
And further it's not so important that you know the exact SW of the company that you want to work for. Often employers just want to know that you have the concept and knowledge of 3D and/or 2D skills. As well as employers like to see students who make the effort to gain skills before an internship rather than showing up with experience from the local fast food joint.
@jimiller: All solid tips. The real point is gaining the exposure and command of these design tools that will be with them for a lifetime, whether in current form or in some new fangled version. As you well point out, have the base foundation is the critical part, not necessarily having skills in each tool.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.