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A Platform Independent Methodology For Teaching Students To Leverage The Power Of Parametric Design Tools

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Curriculum in Mechanical Engineering Technology: Part I

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.72.1 - 15.72.10

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Paper Authors


Michael Johnson Texas A&M University Orcid 16x16

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Johnson is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University. Prior to joining the faculty at Texas A&M, he was a senior product development engineer at the 3M Corporate Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota for three years. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University and his S.M. and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Johnson’s research focuses on design tools, specifically, the cost modeling and analysis of product development and manufacturing systems; CAD methodology; and engineering education.

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Udaya Bhanu Prakash Sunku Texas A&M University

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Sunku is a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. He has a a Bachelors of Engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad, India.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Platform Independent Methodology for Teaching Students to Leverage the Power of Parametric Design Tools


One of the great contributions to engineering productivity over the last two decades has been the introduction of parametric computer-aided design (CAD) programs. In an increasingly competitive environment where more and more products have ever decreasing lifetimes, these programs allow engineers to make rapid design changes and quickly communicate designs to various customers and vendors. CAD has become an indispensable tool for most engineering professionals.

Too often CAD courses are taught as platform specific means to reach some geometric end. Conveying design intent and leveraging the parametric nature of these tools is not emphasized. This reduces the ability of students to produce designs which others can quickly change; the capacity of others to comprehend the organization of the model is also limited. This focus on a geometric end also causes students to concentrate on expedient platform specific means of reaching that end.

In this paper a methodology is detailed for teaching CAD in a manner that demonstrates the importance of design intent. The production of models that are clearly organized and easily changed is emphasized. Platform independent exercises which can be used to demonstrate and emphasize these goals are detailed. Data collected at the beginning and the end of the semester to assess the students’ confidence with the parametric and feature-based nature of CAD are presented. Students showed a significant increase in their confidence and ability to describe parametric and feature-based concepts.


Computer-aided design (CAD) tools have become indispensable for most engineering professionals. In an increasingly competitive global economy, there is expanding product variety and decreasing product lifetimes.1 Today’s engineering and engineering technology students will enter a workplace where CAD is used throughout the development process 2. CAD has become a valuable tool that allows engineers to quickly create and update designs and communicate them to others. The ability to use CAD is essential for most engineers today.

Most engineers will likely use several versions of CAD programs over their career. This may be due to the changes in their job, software changes at their company, or general software versioning (Pro/Engineer has had eight major versions in the past ten years). For their skills to remain in demand, it is essential that today’s engineer be able to easily transfer knowledge to a new program version or platform. Unfortunately, CAD is often taught in a platform specific manner that shows students how to produce certain geometry with a specific CAD package. Students then focus on the expedient manner with which to produce that geometry. The exercises presented in this paper are designed to teach students lessons that apply generally to all higher-end parametric CAD programs. The focus is on helping students convey design intent using these programs.

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