Engineering Students Begin Semester with New 3D Modeling Software

Matthew Ichimura, Contributing Writer

Due to the effects of COVID-19, the CRLS RSTA engineering program began the in-quarantine semester by introducing new 3D modeling programs Fusion 360 and Onshape. Instead of the program Autodesk Inventor, which students have been trained to use traditionally, students are having to relearn the basics with mixed results. The change happened due to Computer Aided Design (CAD) costing $1,690 a year, Fusion 360 being free for academic use, and Onshape’s compatibility with Chromebooks. 

CAD is a 3D modeling software which, at an industrial level, has been an extremely effective tool in maximizing efficiency, allowing engineers to create and produce quickly and accurately. The birth of CAD was marked with the invention of Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad at MIT. By creating x-axes and y-axes, which represented simple two-dimensional shapes, engineers used Sketchpad to represent their ideas digitally. 51 years after this invention, engineers around the world have been using 3D-modeling software, many which implement the same 2D aspect in addition to a 3D aspect.

The switch from programs has produced mixed results among the three engineering classes at CRLS: Engineering 1, 2, and 3. One benefit that students have highlighted is that using new computer programs, such as Fusion 360 , are beneficial because they teach aspiring engineering students to handle challenges and overcome obstacles that are faced. “Students have the ability to adapt to new software and situations,” said Ashrafur Rahman ’21, a student in Mr. Conrad Hauck’s Engineering 3 class. Another student in Engineering 3, Connor Kennedy ‘21 added, “I think it might make us better engineers because for me at least, it’s a lot harder to learn outside the classroom”. Many students and faculty agree that the challenges faced will produce better engineers as most of the business in engineering in the modern era is occurring digitally. 

Although many think this can be a beneficial experience, some disagree. Mr. Berry Jackson, another engineering teacher, said that he believed that due to the coronavirus, “[New engineering students] are not receiving all that they could potentially use to strengthen the student’s whole infrastructure”. This idea was also mirrored by Nathen Lee ’21, who has been having to do a similar thing. Lee said that it is “hard for the class to be enthusiastic without [a] prior background of STEM”.  

Even though they are facing the challenges of online learning, students and teachers are cooperating and doing their best to make the most of their situations and succeed. As Mr. Hauck has pointed out, “tutorials can be assigned and students can demonstrate to other students.”