5 tips for CAD lessons to engage your students

There are many students on GrabCAD who are looking to learn and take part in fun projects to advance their skills and connections with other engineers. Teachers can take advantage of our platform to engage their students and make their CAD lessons more effective and hands-on.

CAD lessons pic, Certainty by XKCD.com

Comic: ‘Certainty’ by XKCD.com


Take things apart…

...And put them back together. Every model in the GrabCAD Library is a lesson waiting to happen. You can choose a model to illustrate the concept your class is learning and have them examine it part by part. Then, put them to the test of recreating one part or the whole model depending on their skill level. Teacher and GrabCADr, Alan Zube, explains why he has students download models.

I use GrabCAD to inspire students to reach farther [with their designs] by showing assemblies that others have created. It shows how they can unleash the power of CAD software and demonstrates that there are no limits to their creative potential! Another thing I like to do is download modeled parts so students can look through the browser (we use Inventor) to see how other people have used the software to create their parts. - Alan Zube, Blue Ridge Community & Technical College

Add a team aspect: Get students to bring separate parts together into one project.

Make it harder: Have students modify CAD models to suit a new use and objective.


Teaching others helps you learn

All teachers know that being able to take someone through a process step by step makes you better in the end, too. Students can reinforce their lessons but uploading tutorials of their work. How did they prepare? What steps did it take? After going through, they will not only know their CAD principles better, they will have helped many other beginners, too.

For something easier: Have students follow one of our series of Tutorials as they learn. Step-by-step they’ll create something that they can show-off at the end of class.

Make it interactive: Post your own Tutorials and have students watch them before class, like A3NCAD does at PXL University in Diepenbeek-Hasselt, Belgium. Then, you can spend class time going over questions and do hands-on troubleshooting.

Add more impact: Add tutorial videos with a CAD model to make an even better experience for students.


Step outside the classroom

The student experience is enriched by seeing all the models listed by other students from around the world. They see what they’re learning and it shows them the abundance of support available in the engineering community. A quick search on our Blog shows engineering and design companies in their natural habitat, building helpful things for their customers. They can also see how engineers continue their education past graduation, so many people are studying new technologies and using GrabCAD to get feedback on their progress. All of these are helpful motivators for your class.

Checkout these student projects listed on GrabCAD:

3d printed hand by eric schneider  Panton Chair By sergio    Final Sprinkler Model By Lucian Novosel

Soccerball Study By Mohammed Shakeel  Laundry Detergent Bottle Project By Bryce Geesey   Magura MT9 Hydraulic Disk Brake Concept By Jakob Deraas Grimsgaard


Make things challenging

Every week, we post new Challenges where real companies ask GrabCAD engineers and designers to solve a problem. Students can get a chance to solve real engineering problems with their classmates whether it is building a lighter jet engine bracket, accessories for an SLR camera, or a universal rod holder for canoes. Participating in the comments section where most of the back and forth occurs between the Community’s engineers is encouraged. People freely share tips and help beginners submit work.


Keep it targeted: Use Workbench to host your own private Challenge for class.

Engineering is a team sport: Have them work in small teams to create a few solutions that they present to class and compare merits.


Keep things organized

Classes have a lot of supporting material which is tough to organize. Maintain versions of the models you use in class along with past assignments and even student submissions on GrabCAD. With a public repository, you can show CAD files and renderings by top performers from previous classes to inspire your students to one-up them. You can maintain versions of non-CAD paperwork (like PowerPoint presentations) and share rich media like videos, too.

Speed Reduction System by MECA   Just a little spoon By Jason Williams   Can-opener By german likes to make everything

Heron's Fountain By Greg McIntyre   Breadboard - For Electronics Projects By Shane Anderson    Toy Train 3D Modeling By Alan Zube


Bonus: CAD lessons from one teacher to another

Teacher and GrabCADr, Shane Anderson, sees the value in getting students to work online.

Students can submit work for marking via GrabCAD. Then, it can be easily formatted as a design proposal with written work, renderings, animations and 3D data to be checked and marked by the teacher. This eliminates the need to store files at school or on student provided storage, which means it won't get lost. - Shane Anderson, Castlebrooke Secondary School in Ontario

Shane’s Challenge for your class: Part of making good models means that, at some point, you have to build the thing! This can be costly and time consuming. Try giving them a simple part for which they must design the packaging! Students can be given a simple object to model faithfully. This requires observation skills, measuring skills and 3D modeling skills. Then, they use the sheet-metal bent-part functions to create a full scale packaging prototype that is printed 1:1 scale out of card stock. After several attempts they figure out how to make it work. Afterwards the real objects are put on display with some original packaging.

Advanced version: Students export the drawing as a PDF into Photoshop. Then, graphics are added. Some students have made outrageously beautiful and humorous designs!


Tell us how you engage your students

What are you doing to create innovative lesson plans for your CAD students? Let us know in the comments.