Best way to start with Onshape

I want to start my students in Onshape as part of a robotics fundamentals class and for building FTC and FRC robots in classes and on an after school team. It appears there are two main possible entry methods, the Onshape CAD Basics Learning Pathway or the CAD for Robotics - Intro to Onshape. Could someone tell me which might be the better way to start to get students excited. I have minimal CAD experience and will be learning a step ahead of the students. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

1 Like

To be honest, there won’t be a best way. Each student is different in how they learn, how fast they learn, and what excites them. Most of the time, it’s going to be a handholding and guided experience until they decide they want to CAD something.

The fundamentals/basic courses on Onshape are great to learn CAD. These are a must at the very beginning. However, they do not really teach design. That’s where the robotics course seems more focused on.

It’s one thing to learn the tool. It’s another to learn how to apply the tool.

Most kids want to jump into the design and find out they have to learn the tool first and lose interest.


I used the Robochargers CAD class over the summer to get myself started in robotics CAD.
It was really helpful and a great resource. FRC 3005 RoboChargers Onshape CAD Class | Onshape4FRC
This will be my first season helping design the robot though, so I’m probably not the best person to give information on CADing.


@Orion.DeYoe and 3005 did an amazing job with this Onshape class.


I believe that you are absolutely correct! This observation does tend to make me think that going through the CAD Basics Learning Pathway may be the place to start. Thanks for your feedback!

Thank you so much for this reference! This will be a great tool to use!

Both resources you mentioned are great ways to get students started and into Onshape. The CAD for Robotics - Intro to Onshape course is intended to explain everything well enough that it can start new students into Onshape and give them some of the necessary proficiencies, and I definitely think it’s the best way to get the initial interest and excitement. The CAD Basics and the Onshape Fundamentals: CAD are targeted towards a general audience and should give students all of the other necessary skills that the Robotics course may not cover.

I think you could have a lot of success if you used Unit 1 of the Robotics course to get the initial interest and establish the why and then use the Learning Pathways to establish the how. You can also sprinkle in the Robotics units as you see fit, as each unit can stand by itself.

Other resources like the 3005 CAD Class and 3847’s document and YouTube channel are truly excellent and absolutely worth looking into!

(Source - I wrote a bunch of the CAD for Robotics - Intro to Onshape curriculum :slight_smile: )


As a mentor currently teaching myself CAD before the season start, I can echo that the 3005 courses are great! Here’s a link to the training plan that I’ve given my students and myself, which strings together the intro to OnShape courses and the 3005 courses: template.

I’m still editing the training plan, so there are a few mishaps currently. Mainly: the module names for the 3005 courses (10-19) aren’t super accurate. I’m also still filling in durations (I’m personally watching them at 3x speed but I know that’s not for everyone).

Really though, these will help teach you CAD, which isn’t the same as teaching design. For actual design training, our future curriculum will involve both a full robot CAD challenge at a season pace (likely based off of a game that we do a full team mock kickoff for) and the December F4 CADathon. Getting reps in ( + design reviews with competent designers) is the only surefire way to get good at that part.

In parallel with learning to use a CAD tool, it would be good to learn to use some basic physics (simple machines) and to learn how to use some of the FRC-specific calculators that have been posted on this forum. It is possible to design and build a reasonably successful robot using these other tools and resources without using CAD. It is also possible to design a robot in CAD, build it and find that will not work properly because it is breaking some laws of physics.

The Spectrum Design Concepts document comprehensively covers a lot of the physics and design techniques.

JVN Calculator

ILite drive train simulator

AMB Robotics Calculator


1 Like

I’d also add @kds1967’s KLib to that list!


I sure do appreciate the input and that may indeed be the way to try it first. Thanks for helping to bring that course to all of FIRST, and thanks for your response.

1 Like

I sure do appreciate being part of the FIRST community and the help people are willing to give. Thank you for all of the great inputs on Onshape as well as the basic robotics trainings. I have learned about a wealth of information I never knew existed. Please continue to post any other ideas or suggestions you may have. Thank you again and good luck this year!


In relation to this topic, any recommendations for -adding- Onshape to your existing skillset?

I’m a PE with decades of experience on AutoCAD, plus solid Creo and Sketchup.

1 Like

When users with CAD experience are switching over to Onshape for robotics, the biggest challenges are usually learning the best way to make use of part studios and getting used to the mate connector system in assemblies. The actual process of making sketches and adding features is pretty much the same with some different hotkeys.

I’d recommend the Onshape Fundamentals: CAD pathway as it highlights and explains those two major differences between Onshape and other CAD platforms, and you could skip the intro to sketching and detailed drawing as it’ll be a lot of material you already know. The Advanced Onshape Assemblies and Advanced Part Design are also a great way to learn Onshape’s best practices. The Onshape Learning Center is full of great material and worth looking through if you have the time.

Hopefully that provides a good starting point! When it comes applying all of this effectively for FRC robot design, it’s hard to beat as a resource - getting MKCAD set up on your account, learning the FeatureScripts, and exploring other teams’ Onshape documents will make designing a robot so much faster.