What are the best ways to teach and encourage people to CAD?

Upon realizing that I could make some use out of the next few months of nothing, I’ve decided to attempt to better teach (and learn) CAD (specifically Onshape). I am currently in need of advice on projects to give to beginners, and the best ways to help them out in completing those projects.

Additionally, encouraging people to get involved in CAD is another issue I am having. My goal is to have enough students proficient in CAD to sustain the team through future years, however I’m getting very little genuine interest, and I feel that a lot of students with potential are missing out due to a lack of participation. This is probably the more important problem to solve. Thanks for the help CD!

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Have your CAD people actually do stuff. My plan is to have the new people each design a full FTC robot, then work together to design one full FRC bot.
One key thing is having people study other team robots. That way they can develop a database of when and why other teams did a certain thing.
Another thing that really helped me (and this requires a lot of time and energy) is to do a full robot on your own. I did three last summer and I went from never really doing robot CAD to leading the CAD team this year in about 10 months.

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Echoing this. To paraphrase one of my good friends, “You get good at making good robots by trying to make good robots until you’re good at it”.

Good stuff.

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Create a need. Genuine, urgent need. Nobody’s gonna want to learn how to CAD (or any skill for that matter) if they’re gonna spend all fall on it and then a couple other students or mentors are gonna handle it all in their place. Newer students don’t have the foresight you have in mind when planning for the future. Structure your design process to have gaps, then trust that your ambitious and excited students will push themselves to fill those gaps.

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The last four years of Pandamaniacs performance:

2017
2018
then we started taking CAD and MCCs seriously
2019
2020

Moving from paper-sketches-if-that to our current process has saved us time, material, and frustration in many ways. Our lead CADder is graduating, but he’s had minions so I’m hopeful that we’ll keep that momentum up.

Now, Jersey Voltage has a better pedigree of success than the Pandamaniacs (it took us 16 years to become an alliance captain at a regional, 17 to become someone’s first pick), so that may be a case of “this is what happens if we backslide”. But our kids have come to understand that doing the CAD work saves us mountains of heartache and heads off end-of-week-5 surprises.

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I find that 1678’s Strategic Design workshops are very engaging and have lots of great advice. Take a glance at those if you haven’t already; maybe there will be something you can share with your team.

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I had some advice on another thread, so I figured I’d share it here as well.


My team doesn’t have an actual CAD team. I was debating next year whether to try and establish one or not, because right now, each team CADs whatever part they’re working on, but I feel like communication would work smoother if we had one central CAD team. Thoughts?

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How large is your team? My general experience has been that larger teams are more valid reasons to have an independent CAD team. With smaller teams, it’s just another barrier to getting stuff done.

I think about 30-35 students, and I know that a lot of times during build season students are looking for something to do. I really hope our team size will increase a bit next year. I want to be prepared for it to increase quite a bit the year after next, because we currently have only one junior, and I’m hoping that we can do a lot more recruiting between now and then.

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Alright so you have two separate problems: Learning CAD yourself, and encouraging others to do so.

Let’s start with the easier problem: teaching yourself.

I have no experience with onshape, I’m assuming there’s plenty of good general tutorials out there for the basics of using the program. If you haven’t already, setup your keyboard shortcuts, do some quick searching for one and get the basics of the program down backwards and forwards.

Next comes the FRC specific stuff. The first thing I can say is to use a design library. Save yourself the effort. It’s easier to make people want to CAD if they get to spend mortise doing the fun stuff!

As has been stated throughout this thread, the way you become a good FRC designer, is quite simply to design a lot of robots. The best way to get started is to try and copy other teams. Get yourself comfortable with designing each of the 5 most commonly used mechanisms in a way they could be manufactured by your team (use COTS parts when it makes sense): 1) A tank drive, 2) an arm, 3) an elevator, 4) a ball intake, and 5) a shooter. To do this, you must study other team’s designs. Read Chief Delphi threads, and look through CAD models. If you are able to design each of these in the offseason, congrats! You are now capable of building the major subsystems of a robot for any game the GDC could reasonably throw your way!

The next problem for the FRC designer is systems integration. This sometimes can be harder to practice well without building a full robot to test how everything works together. That doesn’t mean it can’t be practiced. Here, 2D sketches (I’m assuming something similar exists in onshape…) are your best friend. Also, design some full robots out. You may not be able to build a real one to make sure everything works together, but you can still make sure everything fits and looks reasonable. Furthermore, designing a robot for a past year requires that you think of game strategy, which is inseparable from good robot design.

For more help on FRC specific design, check through Spectrum’s recommended CAD resources. (Yes, most of them are solid works design tutorials. That does not mean that they don’t have a lot of good information which you can translate into Onshape)


Ok. Second problem–how do you get others to want to do the same? This can be hard, especially in the offseason. Well, firstly you do what you can to try and help them get bitten by the robotics bug–send them cool robot designs and FRC videos until they can’t help themselves! Failing that, you could try and have some sort of design competition between the students, or make a list of things which need to be designed for the team (like a driver station, robot cart, shelving/storate, etc) to show that their work has immediate value for the team.

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Thank you for the advice on what I can do for myself to get better. I’ll send some fun stuff to my team members, and work on a list of projects for the team to design. Any advice on a specific type of arm to pursue, or should I make on based off of a particular season?

For a beginner project to have rookie cad members do I would recommend designing something like a drivetrain or a simple gearbox, that has real season application. Another exciting thing you could do is actually have them fabricate or assemble what they have modeled.

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Hey, just wanted to kinda chime in because reading over the replies, not many have addressed how to drum up interest. I may not be the most qualified but our team is going through a somewhat similar circumstance with the kid who did most of the CAD this year being a senior. I saw a lot of interest was created when the team truly emphasized how much we needed cadders over the season and further encouraging this with a cadathon over the “break”. It’s a competition that will pair rookies with veterans and incorporates non-cad components as well. Having the whole team encouraged to learn CAD made it seem more normal and less daunting. While this won’t apply for everyone, I’d just encourage a general destigmatization of the difficulty of cad and the general importance.

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find one freshman that seems bright, then give them a crippling robotics and cad addiction, they can keep the team up for 4 years then repeat the cycle.
or start a project and create a situation where the best thing to do is cad idk

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This situation feels awfully familiar…

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Oddly relatable

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To teach and encourage CAD: Pair CAD and 3D printing.
Even the simplist widget brought to life through 3D printing provides the immediate motivational feedback: “Hey, I created this!”
The first print may not be the correct scale, perhaps intended features aren’t produced properly. This starts the learning cycle.
It also opens the path to thinking about what else can be created. The what else path opens to learning more CAD techniques.
Positive feedback!

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We saw an incredible uptick in CAD when we moved to manufacturing most of the robot on our CNC router. “I had an idea and made this thing” is such a powerful experience.

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Another idea:
Teach everyone on your team how to read a CAD. It’s fairly simple but fair from straight forward if you’re a first time user. This way, everyone gets a base familiarity with the program and can build from it.

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Last year, FRC #1018 was an early user of the NEO motor and the SPARKMAX motor drive. One issue we had was the CAN wiring coming unplugged from the drive. The root cause was a combination of CAN wiring a little too short and the ability to shift the SPARKMAX on the robot.
Lesson learned: Designed a mounting block - use one for each end - that prevents the SPARKMAX from shifting:
https://grabcad.com/library/spark-mounting-block-1

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