Design Software for Tomorrow’s Engineers


If you keep up with the business press, you know that many are predicting a broad disruption to manufacturing soon. Not a political disruption as world leaders seek to lure factories with incentives. But rather, a technological disruption, as ideas like affordable 3D printing and community manufacturing centers take hold.

Everyone brings a different view to the discussion of how the changes might unfold, but there’s one prediction with which everyone agrees: We’re going to need more designers and engineers. Lots of them.

That brings me to John Stuart, SVP of PTC’s Educational Program. His team offers curriculum development, deployment, and support  to institutions and students worldwide as we try to inspire and prepare the next generation of engineers. He tells us how it works:

GH: What is PTC’s strategy with respect to education?

Stuart: We look for shared value, where everyone involved in our initiative benefits by participating–employers, schools, and students.

GH: For example?

Stuart: We partner with an educational establishment that delivers engineering graduates to our customers. We work with our customers in supporting the university, college, or school. And we make sure students gain experience in the tools and processes their biggest local employers use.

GH: What are the key tactics behind this strategy?

Stuart: There are really four key tactics. First, we get involved in the top engineering initiatives between education and industry. Second, we develop a strong presence in universities, colleges, and training centers. Third, we involve ourselves heavily in schools and with STEM programs. Fourth, we simply provide students access to our software products.

GH: You’re involved in some well-known student engineering competitions ….

Stuart: We work with existing educational-industry initiatives like STARBASE, Real World Design Challenge, FormulaSAE, and FIRST. These engineering initiatives attract the best  students, challenge them with real engineering projects, and provide industry mentoring  from some of our largest customers.

Our goal is to ensure that if a students take part in these challenges, they have access to the best software tools and training available. Each year, we try to add more student teams and more customer participation too.

GH: You’re also in universities, colleges, and training centers?

Stuart: Of course. There’s a lot of activity at that level. In countries like the US, Germany, India, and China, demand for engineers outstrips supply by at least 2 to 1. In some countries, it’s 5 to 1. Governments everywhere are investing in programs to encourage more young people into engineering by adding technical colleges and advanced training centers. So, we work with both existing universities and these new colleges and training centers to make sure PTC products play a key part in the curriculum.

GH: What about high schools?

Stuart: With 9- to 13-year olds we have our best opportunity to inspire young people  to become engineers and scientists. Our key initiative here, again, is to involve PTC in the design competitions–FIRST, Real World Design Challenge, STARBASE, and so on.

GH: What about individual Students?

Stuart: Students can access free versions of our software, for example, Creo Parametric, Creo Direct, and Mathcad. We also provide access to libraries of free tutorials to help students become familiar with the products.

GH: What’s unique about PTC’s educational program?

Stuart: The program provides the broadest range of software technology and support tools out there, including 2D and 3D design software, engineering calculations, product lifecycle management. It’s what I call a 360-degree approach to education.

Take Creo. We offer a  stair-step curriculum. New students work with 3D using a direct modeling approach. For students with more experience, we provide training on projects developed with Creo’s powerful parametric modeling tool, Creo Parametric.

We also include a rich set of curriculum materials, professional learning managements tools, and PLM as a service on the cloud.

GH: How would you summarize your success?

Stuart: Literally tens of thousands of students graduate each year having taken part in the PTC educational program. And with Creo, and the new 360 approach, we offer one of the most comprehensive programs on the market.

[Ed. In future articles, we’ll look more closely at Stuart’s educational initiatives and activities going on across the world.]

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