I belong to Jenison Robotics’ team 457B named “Game Over” in Jenison, Michigan, near Grand Rapids. In Jenison Robotics, we use VEX Robotics technology to further our learning in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and grow skills in teamwork, leadership and problem solving. We also have a lot of fun.
I started using SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD fifteen months ago when I got a student edition for Christmas. I taught myself how to use the software using tutorials, along with guidance from my dad, who uses SOLIDWORKS at work. Last season, my dad showed my team and I how we could use SOLIDWORKS to design our robot. So, my goal for this year was to learn how to use SOLIDWORKS before the season even started so that when we did start practicing, I could fully design our robot.
One of the things I like most about SOLIDWORKS is how easy it is to learn and that I could start creating things right away. I have been very fortunate to have a dad who knows how to use the software and who has been helpful to answer any questions as I was learning when I got stuck.
Local SOLIDWORKS User Groups (SWUGS) teach new and experienced users
I am also thankful to have access to a large local user group, the West Michigan Lakeshore SOLIDWORKS User Group, which is held in Holland, Michigan, where I attend meetings and learn new skills from other members. Fisher Unitech recently showed me at the last user group meeting how to use SOLIDWORKS sheet metal tools.
I have been able to share with my teammates, such as Mason and Josh shown in the photo creating a sub-assembly, how to use the software and the advantages it provides our team. We are now able to build our robot with a more accurate design, to scale, with a full bill of materials used. We know exactly how many parts we used and where they are used.
With VEX Robotics one of the ways we can win awards is by having the best engineering notebook. The engineering notebook should include electrical and mechanical designs that show enough detail so that anyone would be able to rebuild our robot using the designs we include.
SOLIDWORKS helps secure the top spot
We were able to download all the part files we needed for our designs from the VEX Robotics website. Using the files we downloaded, we used SOLIDWORKS to create electrical drawings that show our motors, sensors and wiring diagrams. We also created different configurations of parts that we used in our assembly.
Using these designs in our engineering notebook, we were able to impress the judges at every tournament we competed at because no other team was using this software technology.
We won the Excellence Award at two separate tournaments which is the top award given out at any VEX Robotics Tournament. We also won the Design Award at the Michigan State Tournament. Winning this award qualified our team to be able to compete at the VEX Robotics World Championship against the best teams from around the world—56 countries were represented. We won the Create Award at the VEX Robotics World Championship.
My teammates and I are so excited about our achievements and know that taking the time to learn how to design our robot in SOLIDWORKS has set our team apart.
We know that the other kids in our program could also benefit from this knowledge and skill. Our team's hope is to share what we have learned with the rest of the participants at Jenison Robotics. My hope is that someday in the near future all the kids in our program will have access to SOLIDWORKS software so that we can all excel in competition.
About the Author
Nathan Appel is an 8th grade student at Jenison Junior High School in Jenison, Michigan. He started using SOLIDWORKS Student Edition at 12 years old and started attending local SOLIDWORKS user group meetings the same year. Jenison Robotics has just completed its second year of competition and Nathan has been a part of the program from the start. He and his teammate, Mason Fish, have qualified to compete at VEX Robotics World Championship both seasons.