Idea: "CAD-a-thon"

I have this idea, which is similar to a Hackathon, except with CAD. What happens is that one day, members of local FRC teams (or anyone interested) meet in some location, and spend the entire day on designing gearboxes, chassis, etc. The reason for this is to hopefully strengthen teams who lack that skill of the FRC design process through working with other participants.

Yeah, just some random thought that popped up recently, and I came here to see if it was something good, or something that people would actually be interested in.

I would be interested in this. It’s interesting to see how other teams do things and how they decide on things like belt v. chain, aluminum v. steel, fastener sizes, etc. and all the CAD tools they use.

I would love to attend something like this. I’m mostly self-taught in CAD, so it would be awesome to see how other people work and how other teams design.
Maybe you can pose a challenge/topic at the beginning of the CAD-a-thon, have diverse groups (different teams/age) try and design something. Then we can see how others work directly and get to know people on other teams. Afterwards groups can present and everyone will get exposed to different designs.
The CAD-a-thon can also have some 3D printers running. That would be fun.
I see that all three posts on this thread so far are from the Bay Area. Hmmm… :wink:

I would love to attend an event like this. But the closest FRC team to us is 100mi away.
How about an online event or option? Google Hangouts is our friend.

I learned CAD through Google Hangouts, especially through the screenshare. The only problem was that there were other people on Google Hangouts that had difficulties, but all the instructor could really do was verbally tell him/her how to fix the problem, and that turned out to be a big obstacle. But then again, these people weren’t so much familiar with the Solidworks interface coming into the session.

Challenges, so like “build a butterfly drive/ swerve drive/ dual speed gearbox/ etc.” Yeah, I think they had something like that in one local Hackathon that I kind of crashed during build season :stuck_out_tongue:

So if something like this were to be in the Bay Area, where specifically would it be? Like, how willing would people want to travel x miles to this (in addition, this would be experimental at the start, so maybe it won’t be great at first)?

Chak, since you are from 4159, a team from San Francisco, I would like to ask: How long did it take your team to travel to attend CalGames, and if it was long, did it bother anyone? Maybe this will give me an idea of how far people want to go for this.

I’m not sure what the deadline is/was, but you could see if this is something that could be a session at the WRRF workshops. It’s definitely an interesting idea, and that might help it get more attention.

I would love to participate in a CAD-a-thon. I am also self taught so getting a chance to work alongside some CAD’ers would be great! Maybe hold it online that way anyyone can particpate.

It took us about an hour of driving to get to Calgames. Our team made going to Calgames mandatory this year, and I don’t think anyone complained.

My team’s other self-taught designer and I are very willing to go anyways, but I’ve long since learned that others may not have the same priorities as me regarding Robotics.:o

I think more people will be willing to travel a bit farther if this CAD-a-thon is made into a huge multi-team all day event, like Calgames or WRRF workshops. I, for one, would be more willing to travel for, say, a 8-hour event with more people than a short 4-hour event with less people.

You think we can organize something like this before next build season? A CAD-a-thon, physically in Bay Area and electronically worldwide.

I’m currently typing some kind of outline for the event. If this thing is a go, then it will probably be at a location local to M-SET, which is right next to Lynbrook high where we played CalGames. In addition, this will happen during winter break (for me, break is two weeks: one for Christmas, and the other for kickoff). I’m debating myself which of the weeks should the event be held on, because first week there’s Christmas and grade releases :frowning: . But then the next week there’s kickoff.

I intend to have this restricted to the Bay Area since this would be more of a “learning the ropes”. However, if anyone outside the Bay Area really wants in on this, then I should think more on how to do this through Google Hangouts.

I’m going to talk to my team, mentors, and friends from the other local teams, and see what they think about something like this. In addition, I might put a white paper to CD that contains the plans and stuff for an ideal CAD-a-thon event so other teams can perhaps host their own event.

I’d be very interested in doing an online version of this (my team is in NH). Were you thinking of doing it separately for teams that use different CAD packages, though?

We use SolidWorks but I know teams have access to a variety of other packages too.

Also, FWIW I’ve written some SolidWorks tutorials that are specifically geared toward FRC students. We used them this past year for training, but I hope to reformat them to make it easier to take them out of sequence. The first 3 are CAD-oriented and the last one is design / calculation oriented.

If an online version of this happened, I’d probably join in if only to motivate myself to finally do a bunch of CAD exercises I’ve been meaning to do. This could be done on streaming services like to allow more viewers than a Google Hangout would, but that begs the question of whom would actually watch?

I would definitely be interested in doing something like this!

My team would be more than willing to host something like this. Perhaps after build season as it is coming up pretty soon. We’re located up in Santa Rosa, CA and have access to Exchange Bank corporate headquarters, which has a huge auditorium for 200 people, as well as classrooms adjacent to it, each of which can hold a max of 20 people. If anyone would be interested feel free to email me,

We might also be able to host/attend–we’re located in San Mateo (nicely between SF and SJ) and are walking distance from the Hillsdale Caltrain. Feel free to email me at

The hosting group could have people separate based on what type of CAD they use. Solidworks in one group, Inventor in another.

And Creo can work with both :stuck_out_tongue:

I assume by separating into groups, you mean different groups competing in the same competition can use different software packages. Splitting the entire event into sub-competitions based on package used doesn’t seem to serve a valuable purpose in my opinion. Also, this entire idea sounds like a lot of fun to me and I hope someone can make it work (and I might borrow and modify the event for a future GOFIRST event…)

This is how large [coding-oriented] hackathons operate: a challenge/challenges (tackling problems in health, education, etc.) is issued at the start, and judges/peers determine winners. One of the most appealing aspects is the ability to network and learn from others; hackathons often institute a system of mentors, either from the industry or just experienced programmers in the community, to help out with certain languages, technologies, and so on. There’s also the draw of free food, energy drinks, and prizes, of course.

It could be interesting to extend this idea to a “prototype-a-thon” of sorts, where people from multiple teams (as opposed to the prototype-a-thon that takes place in Week 1 every season) can access a set of shafts, drills, wheels, fasteners, and wood, and run with their ideas.

This actually sounds super interesting. Our team just started an official CAD team this year, so we’ve been building up computers and experimenting with software.

One question: Would there be a specific CAD software that everyone would have to use? I worry that there might be some disadvantages for younger/poorer teams that can’t afford complex software like TurboCAD, and would be forced to use less capable products (such as Autodesk)

Other than that, I’d be really enthusiastic about an event like that in the FIRST community!

While I’m generally pretty clear that I dislike Inventor, it’s disingenuous to claim that, for FRC purposes, it isn’t a perfectly capable piece of software. I’d prefer to work with someone with four years of experience in Inventor over someone who has a year in Creo (or TurboCAD, but I can’t say I’m familiar with that package and I haven’t ever heard of anyone using it for robots or in industry), and certainly wouldn’t say that our theoretical designer working with Inventor is at a disadvantage.

I’ve been training a few FTC students in Creo for the past few weeks, and one of the things I’ve been impressing upon them is that Creo or any other CAD package is a tool, and it isn’t any smarter than you are. The “best” CAD software in the world won’t give you any advantage if you don’t know how to use it.

You can get Solidworks and Autodesk products free for educational use.
I have to say that even with all of SW’s simulation tools, I use only one (the bending analysis) and then only when I really have to. It’s just a lot to learn for anybody without a few years their belt already, and it takes time to learn.