As a proud alumnus of the Hilo Viking Robotics Club (pictured above), I announced last January that Onshape was partnering with the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), the international program promoting STEM education to high school students around the world. Our partnership included providing the Onshape Education Plan and Kit of Parts CAD library to all FRC team members, teachers and mentors.
What’s happened over the past year has been phenomenal.
Onshape itself has dramatically changed since teaming up with FIRST, having added Simultaneous Sheet Metal tools, Managed In-Context Design, configurations and a flurry of other improvements. But it’s not about what we’re building – it’s about what all of you have built with it.
A quick search for “FRC” in Onshape’s Public Document library shows some impressive robot designs.
Another search for “Onshape” in the Chief Delphi forums, the primary FRC community forum, reveals more teams than ever showcasing the incredible work they have created with Onshape.
Students have also been demonstrating the FIRST mission of “Gracious Professionalism” at every turn. Teams like Inconceivable (2530) have created public Onshape Documents and shared their learned tips and tricks with the community. Other teams like The MilkenKnights (1836) have created entire libraries of standard FRC parts.
It’s inspiring for me as a proud FRC alum to see teams helping other teams (their competition!) improve their design processes. I started working with robots at age 10 and consider my FIRST experiences to have been instrumental in influencing my CAD career.
So, what’s causing such an exponential growth in Onshape adoption from FIRST Robotics teams? Here are the top reasons I’m hearing from teachers and mentors:
- It’s Hardware Agnostic – Onshape runs completely in your web browser, just like Google Apps. There are no downloads, no installs, no upgrades. You simply sign up at onshape.com/edu/frc/signup and you’re ready to go. Macs, PCs, Chromebooks, iPads, tablets – they all work with Onshape.
- You Can Access CAD Anywhere – Because Onshape runs within a browser, your CAD system and your CAD data go everywhere you do. Log in from home or from the school’s computer lab, and pick up where you left off.
- It’s Easy to Use – Onshape is a professional CAD system used by thousands of companies. But just because it’s extremely powerful, doesn’t mean that it’s hard to use. Teams find that learning Onshape is much easier than other CAD systems, and it has only gotten easier since the launch of our free Onshape Learning Center with its self-paced online courses.
- It’s Truly Collaborative – Onshape Documents can be shared with anyone and edited by multiple team members at the same time. People have called it the “Google Docs of CAD.” No hassling with files, lost data, overwritten work, etc.
While Onshape’s momentum continues full STEAM ahead (pun intended), it is still just the beginning. By using modern CAD, students everywhere will be able to focus on the fun parts of robotics – the designing, problem solving and creating – rather than being hindered by the technological limitations of their software. Nobody wants to spend time during their short 6-week build season struggling with installs and upgrades, recovering data lost from crashes, or juggling files between team members.
In so many ways, being part of a FRC team is a preview of how amazing a career in engineering and manufacturing can be. For those teams already using Onshape, we’re honored to be part of your education and hope to help you get to the FIRST Championship.
For those teams who have yet to give Onshape a try, now is the time (well, maybe not right now. You only have until February 20th to finish your robot). But, modern CAD could be your secret weapon next year! To see all the FRC resources we provide, visit www.onshape.com/edu/frc