Don’t think of CAD software as “just a tool.” That’s like thinking math is “just a tool.”
That’s one bit of advice for schools we heard from Gary Lamit at PTC Academic Program’s “Bridging the Engineering Gap” webinar recently.
Lamit, Department Head at De Anza College’s Mechanical Engineering department, has been teaching for decades and chairs a program that regularly places students in jobs at companies like Apple Computer, Tesla Motors, and Hewlett-Packard.
So, when Lamit offered to share some of his opinions about how best to teach the next generation of engineers, we were eager to listen.
- Don’t call CAD a “tool.” It’s more than that. Lamit says we easily forget that the CAD system is the primary method to create and establish a design. Schools assume students will “pick up” tools once they’ve reached their career jobs. But that’s not working, he says. “Many unemployable graduates from top colleges show up at De Anza for CAD training. It’s misguided to relegate CAD systems to ‘tools.’ It’s like calling math a ‘tool.’”
- Stay connected to industry. Many colleges look to small advisory boards for industry guidance. But Lamit says his own department is better connected to local industry than to the school itself. He recommends that schools meet regularly with employers within a 200-mile radius. Not only do these employers guide the De Anza program, they hire its graduates. For De Anza, which is located in California’s Silicon Valley, that means working closely with notable companies such as AMD, Apple, Tesla Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Northrup, Lockheed, Logitech, and a dozen others!
- Deliver online. Over the past few years, Lamit has been delivering his courses both online and in classroom. In some ways, online is more intimate.
“Distance learning is not sitting off campus and watching video lectures,” he says. “Distance learning is sitting in the back of a lecture hall with 500 other students!”
He cites two benefits to pre-recorded classes that can be delivered on demand. First, teachers can realistically deliver more specialized classes, like Mold Design, even with only one or two students, because most of the content can be reused quarter after quarter. That puts less demand on instructors, and students don’t have to wait for a class to be scheduled. (And in the case of CAD instruction, schools can leverage PTC University’s extensive online instruction modules.)
Second, students benefit from the “rewind” effect. That is, if they don’t understand a concept lesson, they can rewind the video and go over it again until they do.
Of course, you might ask, “Why do students attend lectures at all then?”
“Sometimes your family just wants you out of the house,” Lamit says.
Find out more about what Lamit has learned about teaching engineering students. Listen to the recorded webinar here: http://communities.ptc.com/videos/4137.