CAD is an awesome way to introduce your ideas to the world in a useful way. Having your part or product modeled in CAD isn’t just a good way to explain it visually, it’s perhaps the first concrete step toward making it real. If you want to make more than one (and sometimes even when you want to make one) CAD can be a really great option!
But CAD is just for professional engineers and industrial designers, right?
No way! CAD tools, like many other things in the technology world, have been getting more and more accessible. So much so, that I now recommend getting middle-school-aged children started with CAD (and programming)!
Here’s a video of me (Chris) making a quick mini socket wrench to be included in a Young Engineer Series project box. I’m a little slower than usual because I’m not used to talking and CAD’ing at the same time, but it’s still enough for a relative beginner to follow along. Sorry, the video doesn’t show my keystrokes or the 3d mouse I’m using from 3DConnexion. Also, the sound isn’t great. I had to process the audio quite a bit to filter out background noise. Our whole business was operating in a garage when I recorded this. 🙂
What CAD tool do I recommend?
In short, Fusion 360 by Autodesk.
I’d recommend you skip CAD altogether for this age. Show them that CAD is a thing and stoke their curiosity, but I think it works better to have them tinkering around in the physical world at this point. In my experience, it helps them build a stronger mechanical and spatial awareness that will benefit them as they begin using CAD tools later.
For everyone else, I recommend Fusion 360. Seriously, it’s a great option for middle school students and for professionals. Imagine getting started in a tool and having your portfolio of CAD work grow with you and stay with you as you get more advanced. Okay, yes, I know there are many other great tools out there. If your school or your business is heavily invested in another tool, you should definitely consider learning with that tool.
Get started with Fusion 360!
- Get it free for Educational Use
- Get it free for Hobby or Startup Use
- Watch some of their great getting-started videos
- Check out their YouTube Channel