As a returning Onshape User Experience (UX) intern, I strive to look for a diverse set of users for UX testing or research. Researching with a diverse user base is ideal because it increases the chances of discovering design flaws. It also ensures that we’re building a product that’s usable for everyone instead of just a narrow demographic. 

Unfortunately, throughout my time working for Onshape, I have struggled to find non-male identifying users. I realized that we need to encourage our female user base to be more active in the Onshape community, so it will be easier to reach out and interview or test with them. So, a few of my Onshape colleagues and I decided to launch a new women’s Onshape User Group.

According to the American Society for Engineering Education, there were over 25,000 mechanical engineering degrees awarded in 2018 (the highest number out of all the engineering majors), but women made up only about 15% of that group.

The mission for our new “Women Who CAD” user group is twofold. First, we are seeking to promote inclusion and diversity to produce a better sense of community amongst Onshape users. Second, beyond our group, we’d like to empower women in mechanical engineering and product design in general. Showcasing more women role models in engineering is also a way to encourage students to pursue mechanical engineering as a major. As a mechanical engineering student myself, I hope to graduate and work in a more inclusive industry.

Sharing My Passion for Engineering

Onshape UX intern Katie Gosbee is a mechanical engineering major at Olin College.

Engineering has always been around me since birth. Both of my parents are engineers and met because of engineering, but it wasn’t until sophomore year of high school that I realized I wanted to be an engineer, too. At Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in Michigan, I had enrolled in Project Lead the Way’s “Introduction to Engineering Design” class. We learned about the basics of CAD and product design and I immediately fell in love with all of it. I really enjoyed the process of taking something in your head and not just creating it on paper, but building it in 3D. 

When I began my college search in junior year, I already had a few early favorites. But everything changed when I discovered Olin College of Engineering and its project-based learning. The concept of learning through doing really fascinated me. I was also inspired by their user-centered focus taught throughout the curriculum. 

Choosing Olin was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The college has a strong sense of community and support, plus amazing professors and unique classes. I am now a junior, studying mechanical engineering with an interest in UX design and human factors engineering with applications to medical devices. When I graduate, I hope to go to graduate school or go into industry for a short time then return to schooling. 

Olin College’s “Design Build Fly” team and their final plane from the 2019 season.

My experience at Olin has helped me discover some of my passions in the engineering space. One of these passions was found through a project team called “Design, Build, Fly,” which builds and flies RC aircrafts every year in a competition put on by the  American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

I joined this team in my first year because I was curious about planes. I was immediately thrust into working on a crucial design for that year’s aircraft. I needed to figure out how to fold the airplane’s wings and allow them to lock back out into place. While working on this project, I got a taste of what it is like to be a mechanical engineer. I found that you don’t just design things, you design them, build them and then test them. Sometimes they break and you have to redesign them and test them again. This iterative process is now second nature to me. 

April soon came and after many late nights helping build the final plane, we were ready to compete. The team traveled to Arizona and we placed 8th out of 100 teams. Winning felt great, but the tingling feeling when I saw our plane fly in competition beats everything else. When I saw our plane completing its tasks, happiness dissolved all of my anxiety and fatigue from the days leading up to competition. 

It was amazing to see how my hard work paid off. This is when I realized that I wanted to keep feeling that joy. Now, I’m the project manager of Olin’s “Design, Build, Fly” team. And even though we’re remote this year and not competing in person, I’m doing my best to still find that joy and share it whenever possible.

Engineering student Katie Gosbee, pictured here at the Olin Materials Science Lab, is one of the founders of the “Women Who CAD” Onshape User Group.

Someone who has inspired me throughout my time at Olin is Professor Daniela Faas, the Director of Fabrication and Laboratory Operations. The shop culture that she has set up has encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone and learn new things in the fabrication spaces. 

In my freshman year at Olin, I took Daniela’s “Introduction to Mechanical Prototyping” class. We learned the basics of mechanical systems and motion, and how to fabricate it. For our final project, we were tasked to build a system to fit certain dimensions but incorporate certain mechanisms. Our final project used a motor which powered gears on a chain that moved a four bar linkage, a slot slider, a scotch-yolk mechanism, a cam, a bevel gear, and many other smaller parts.

Katie Gosbee’s final project for her Intro to Mechanical Prototyping class.

Daniela has made sure that everyone feels welcome in the fabrication spaces, no matter who you are or what your background is. I hope that our new “Women Who CAD” User Group projects those same inclusive feelings and same level of encouragement.

Are You a Woman Who CADs? Join Us!

To sign up for the virtual meeting or to learn more about our mission, visit "Women Who CAD" User Group site

This first meeting features guest speaker Elise Moss, president of Moss Designs, a Silicon Valley firm that specializes in creating custom applications and designs for corporate clients. A third-generation engineer, Elise is also a renowned author who writes for some of the top CAD publications. 

The session will also include two Onshape technical experts who will share tips. We hope to feature more inspirational women at future meetups. If you would like to speak or nominate someone else, please contact us at usergroups@onshape.com. 

I hope “Women Who CAD” will eventually develop a few internal programs and a strong community as well. We also plan to establish a mentorship and awards program to encourage communication and community amongst the group.

Although this Onshape User Group was created especially for women, anyone interested in engineering and design is welcome to join us. I am really looking forward to the inaugural meetup and the future of this user group. See you in future meetings!