How to train students in SolidWorks

Our team has tried for years to teach students Solidworks in a nice, cohesive fashion. A lot of teams seem to be really on top of their CADing skills, and I was wondering how they train their students. What resources do y’all use? I’ve looked through the SolidWorks Educational material and it seems less than par.

If y’all have or know of any sites with lesson plans, it would be much appreciated.

BTW, we are an extra-curricular club.


I have found the Simbotic Series to be more than helpful.

We use SolidWorks to design our robot in full each year before we build it. In the fall, we do a few weeks of training, each night a mix of PP lecture and hands-on work. Then they work on old robots. Honestly, though, the most they learn is during build season. Everyone uses CAD to design a part of the robot, as far as they are able to go, even though their work may not be used in the final design. Two or three main students, usually the same students who provided the bulk of the training in the fall, finish it off.

As far as the lectures go, we just made a list of what students need to know to design the robot and worked backwards from there. We have had a few students end up getting their CSWA, but most just learn enough to help out.

I’ve found that the best way to teach (and the best way I learned it) was through workshops because there are many things that can go wrong when you’re not sure what various options do.

We currently hold 2h sessions that cover the basics of parts, assemblies, and drawings including:

  • Creating parts, assemblies, drawings
  • Sketching (on a plane, on a surface)
  • Dimensioning in parts
  • Extrude (blind, midplane)
  • Thin feature
  • Extrude cut
  • Reference geometry
  • Mirror
  • Inserting parts into assemblies
  • Basic mates (coincident, concentric, etc.)
  • Dimensioning in drawings (smart dimension, ordinate dimension, hole callout)
  • Part naming
  • PDM usage

I have some of this material online (youtube and a couple of google docs), and if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll clean it up a bit and share it.

For online material:

1114 has a series of youtube videos where the cover the basics of solidworks, from the layout of solidworks to designing a drivetrain. The playlist can be found here: or on their youtube channel:

610 has a design tutorial that covers the basics of CAD/design and focuses on their 2013 drivetrain:

973 has a series of youtube videos that focuses more on the design applications of solidworks:

These are other youtube channels that have solidworks tutorials (not FRC-related). I’ve found them useful for specific things I want to learn, but haven’t tried to use them for an overall syllabus.
SolidWorks Tutorial (, SolidWorks Zen (, Hawk Ridge Systems (, and Javelin Technologies (

No matter how much time you take to “teach” (I presume everyone sits down in a room and goes over a topic), not everyone will retain the information or be able able to demonstrate their skills effectively.

The way I learned was by watching upperclassmen design for hours on end and by practicing whenever I had the chance. The best time to learn CAD is by practicing, I started by designing and building an FTC robot for 2013, then I moved up to drive bases, then to more complex assemblies like swerve.

The past few years, I have logged over 1000 hours of leisure CAD, that is just sitting down and designing whatever I thought of. By doing this, I learn something new almost every project.

So overall, it would be a good idea to show students the basics and good practices, then set them free.

Our advanced mechanical class is currently designing FRC sized robots to play (a scaled version) of the VEX Nothing but Net game, I can tell they are all learning a lot.

This is a problem we are currently addressing.

As of right now we have no mentors that know solidworks.

I trained myself completely. Another student also separatly trained himself. But, 2 students is not enough.

The simbot series is a good start. I sent it to the two freshman interested in learning but we still don’t have a good way to teach them in person.

On the topic of Solidworks training, is there any easy online training for FEA?

The simbotic listed earlier is great for a just starting introduction.

To expand the individual training:

Need to create a free account
Free account
Great for seeing how others built their models (most will have a history)

I teach SOLIDWORKS/FEA Simulation for a living and teach some of our students on the team before and during the build season. We design the entire robot in CAD each year with only 2-3 students actively working in the software. We are trying to increase that number but the biggest challenge is time and practice. I will share a couple of free, cheap, and not cheap options depending on how you view it.

I choose to teach the first few basic commands during a few sessions and see what the general interest is on the team and then put it on the students who are interested to seek out tutorials on the software as well as sharing resources online. I post problems and video tutorials to the CAD students and let them practice the required skills before build season. I require them to download the software and complete the in-software help tutorials.

The tutorials in the software are not robot specific so those skills need to be practiced by each individual to truly polish that skill set. Once they are able to struggle through a drive system with help from peers and mentors they usually learn much faster. Throw them in to the deep end and make them use the software. They usually swim. CAD is also a use it or lose it skill so practice is a must.

There are some additional tutorials on hours). If you want to learn up to a professional level (CSWP and CSWE) then you can also choose to purchase the professional level mysolidworks account (100 hours +) for around $350/yr which is probably one of the faster self paced ways to learn without a lecture and these tutorials mimic the actual instructor courses produced by SOLIDWORKS. This is the expensive option but you will usually learn each command much faster with this method so you save time.

If a team has no mentor for CAD I highly recommend the mysolidworks professional purchase so that students can learn on their own.

You could also purchase the SOLIDWORKS Bible 2013 by Matt Lombard which is very well written and only 40$ or so on amazon. This also comes with video tutorials but is independently written and the newest version only goes up to 2013. This is also a good option as well to help speedily get students up the the level they want to be at. You could potentially teach this as standard curriculum for FRC and FTC students.

I would only purchase these things if you have already exhausted your web resources from other teams and need more point and click based instruction.

Hope this helps!

Our team uses Inventor and I teach Inventor in a class here at the school
I use a self-directed tutorial that is produced by SDC I find it to work pretty well and can be done without a great deal of over the shoulder help from me or my TA’s. Here is a link to the book from SDC for Solidworks:

It is not cheap but they offer an e-version that you might get your school to purchase and then anyone can use a copy. It is reasonable though for a single copy. It is available on Amazon.

good luck!! has a couple hundred good solidworks tutorials. It’s a paid service but a lot of schools and public libraries will give you access for free.

I have through my school and it is has been helpful to me. I would think it could be a good investment for a team to make

When I use to be in 115, we had Google Hangout sessions for 3+ hours for almost seven days a week (don’t worry, it was during the summer :stuck_out_tongue: ). We first started off with a simple WCD chassis, then a single speed gearbox, etc., pretty much basic mechanisms and techniques. To check if anyone was struggling, we used the screenshare function.

The entire purpose of this was to get us familiar with the FRC design process, because in the end, our instructor let us off on our own to CAD without him watching.

I guess the takeaway for me was that CAD trainings should be one where minimal time is put into learning how to use the software, and more of making something. But another important takeaway is that mastering this skill may be a big time commitment, and not everyone may be on-board; out of, I think, 10+ people who attended the training, only a very few came out of the session confident enough to make something that could be used in competitions.

Yeah, just putting out how I learned to CAD. May not be the best idea, but sure is an option.

Our coach uses the Solidworks handbook and powerpoints on their website to teach the program to beginning students. More advanced people just practice making everyday objects increasing in difficulty.

One resource I would highly recommend is SolidProfessor. My employer uses it to teach SolidWorks to all new engineers. For $279/year you get access to an extensive library of intuitive instructional videos and follow-along examples (including some on FEA). You can also purchase tutorials for Inventor, MasterCam, and many more products. The SolidWorks package features these modules:

  • SOLIDWORKS for Beginners
  • Core Concepts for Parts and Assemblies
  • Drawings
  • SimulationXpress (light version of FEA)
  • Advanced Parts
  • Surfacing
  • Mold Tools and Plastic Design
  • File Management
  • Advanced Assemblies
  • Sheet Metal
  • Weldments
  • Intro to eDrawings
  • Visualization and Appearances
  • PhotoView 360
  • DriveWorksXpress
  • CSWA Prep Course
  • CSWP-CSWE Prep Course
  • Toolbox and Design Library
  • DimXpert and TolAnalyst
  • SOLIDWORKS Routing
  • SOLIDWORKS Simulation (full version of FEA)
  • SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation
  • SOLIDWORKS Plastics
  • SOLIDWORKS Composer
  • SOLIDWORKS Electrical Schematic
  • SOLIDWORKS Workgroup PDM
  • SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM
  • Update Training
  • SOLIDWORKS 101 - Academic

As a fellow graduate of the “watch upperclassmen and then try it myself” school, I suppose I’m a bit biased when it comes to thinking this works well.

There are a couple of schools to teaching CAD, I find: One is the “learn CAD as a program, as can be applied to all sorts of projects”, and the other is “learn how to CAD robots for competition”. It’s a good idea to ask yourself and your team which camp you’re in. It’s a common issue I find in a lot of materials external to FRC-- sure, I can now create a helix cut with parametric pitch and depth, but how can I actually CAD a robot? How do I import parts from McMaster/VexPro/AndyMark/etc? What’s the fastest way to CAD the chassis our team is most comfortable with?

Online programs are lovely for getting a grasp on CAD theory, but effectively modeling in six weeks (or three days) is a different beast, and it requires not necessarily the broad knowledge the tutorials will give you, but more in depth knowledge of specific features and practical concerns that come up in FRC. It’s important to balance the two in any curriculum for teaching students, and I think that a mix of one-on-one teaching and extracurricular experimentation is a good way to get that mix in FRC. The one-on-one part can be useful in teaching the less common/more specific tools for FRC, and the personal experimentation can help broaden your horizons.

I think one of the biggest things to make sure every student coming in knows is that learning CAD is not easy. This is professional grade software that takes a lot of time to learn well, and you need to be willing to put in that time to be ready for build season and work afterwards. Showing up for an hour or two for a few weeks before build season is not going to put your team in a position to use CAD effectively or help you actually learn how to use the software.

I completely agree with this sentiment; in the short time that one is in FRC, they have to learn how to design for FRC well, not just learn how to use the CAD program.
I learned by practicing CAD on my own more than anything. I think that that’s the surest way to be proficient in thinking for yourself and being confident in your ability to CAD.
That being said, I’m definitely going to recommend the RAMP videos along with some of the others posted here for teaching with next year. To get people started in CAD, before they are familiar with SW tools, I feel like those types of tutorials would be perfect.

Teaching people how to use CAD tools decently takes a couple of lessons over a few weeks. Teaching people best practices takes longer. Teaching people how to actually do detailed design for FRC takes far longer, and really requires several years’ experience to get okay at it.

Honestly, doing full CAD of a robot isn’t something a few students are going to be able to do with 2 or 3 weeks experience in a class. For a lot of teams that have some mentor involvement, a good approach can be to gradually transition over a few years to a student detail designed robot rather than teaching and letting them go for it cold. The first year, have the students do design work high level through prototyping and sketching concepts, but have mentors do the gritty detailed work of actually drawing and assembling the parts. Second year, as you get more of a chance to teach the students, have them start making brackets, plates, smaller assemblies, etc. while reserving mission critical designs like gearboxes and system integration to the mentors. Third year you can really get close to a full transition with mentors playing more of a design management role. The key here is that even when mentors do CAD work, students need to be involved - at the very least do some modeling on a projector so students can see and comment.

Obviously said approach does not work for every situation and every team, and some don’t like that level of mentor involvement, but I don’t think you can really go from zero to full robot CAD in students in just 1 season. I’d love to be proven wrong - please tell me what you do if you accomplish this so I can learn how to better inspire students.

Also, watch 973 RAMP. Everything they’ve ever released. The ratio of valuable information taught to time invested in watching the videos is through the roof. I think 973 RAMP had possibly the biggest impact of any one thing on the design / CAD habits of my old team.

AMEN. I see so many tutorials with pointless (well, equation driven spur gears are not pointless) parts that have nothing to do with FRC. Just make sure everything is focused on FRC purposes for the best use of time.

As a self taught SolidWorks users I have trouble figuring out how teach freshmen from the beginning. It is even harder to teach the concept of design to freshmen to the point where they would be competent enough to design competitive parts and assemblies.