The first SWUGN Technical Summit event of 2011 is in the books, and it turned out to be a pretty good. While the attendance number was a little less than we hoped, the people that did turn out were very pleased. One of the best things to come out of the event was getting to meet with two of the local user group leaders.
Kevin Clouden (SWUGoSE) and Jeremy Ferguson (SWUGoCE) were both there and talking up their respective user groups. They also talked about how they can work toether to help grow the network across all of England.
A third fellow by the name of Michael Farmer quickly became one of my favorite people by speaking up about the overwhelming need for more events like the Summit, for more local user group chapters, and more learning opportunities for SolidWorks users everywhere. My kind of guy!
I sat in on a great Tips and Tricks session by Adam Hartles of Solid Solutions Management, a local reseller. I picked up several useful tips, including this little gem:
When using the Power Trim option in a sketch, if you make a mistake and trim a line you didn't intend to - move the cursor back to the little red square - it will undo that last trim.
Graham Bloom from NT CADCAM did a nice job with Custom Properties, and Jon Doyle (no relation) from Cadtek was a big help by providing a projector when we had technical difficulties with the hotel equipment. Jon was also the only reseller rep that made it a point to stay all day.
This was my first ever trip to England, and wasn't without some issues. Upon arrival in London, I learned that my luggage was still in Austin, Texas. While everyone was very nice and helpful, my bag didn't show up until Monday, and I was forced to spend a night at the airport hotel. On Monday, I took one express train, two "undergrounds", and a "fast" train to Birmingham, all while dragging around a 48.5 pound suitcase and a 30 pound laptop. It was a little different from hopping into a rental car and driving to the event.
In keeping with a promise I made to myself to eat more "local fair" when traveling, I enjoyed a traditional English breakfast before boarding the train to Birmingham. It consisted of fried (hard) eggs, baked beans, sausages, a tomato, a large mushroom, toast, something they called bacon, and black pudding. If you don't know what black pudding is, look it up. Not something I would normally choose to eat, but it was very tasty. The meal looked so good that I had to take a picture.
I made a promise to the local group leaders to return someday soon for one of their meetings, so this will not be my last trip to England. Maybe next time I can skip the dramatics at the airport and do some sightseeing. Al Dean from Develop3D had offered to show me a little local history, but between the luggage issues and an appointment that needed to be kept, we didn't get the chance. Next time Al - I will be back!
We've had some really amazing SWUGN Technical Summit events in the past, but Anna Wood may have put together the best one-day lineup of presenters yet. This is also one of the few times that we've had a full compliment of presenters for each session slot - 10 sessions, 10 presenters.
The day will kick off with Phil Sluder, followed by Sal Lama. Moving on to Patrick Rainsberry (with a session I consider to be one of the all-time greats), then Devon Sowell. The day wraps up with DDI's Lou Gallo.
And that's just the "A" track!
We've also got Mike Puckett, Anna Wood, Doug Landers, and Dave Zamora. Oh, and yours truly.
An outstanding lineup of presenters isn't the only reason to attend. The venue will be first-rate, having been recently renovated to the tune of 8 million bucks. I expect the service to be great, the food will be outstanding, and the weather in Phoenix should be perfect.
Registration is now open, and Anna is running a little contest. If you register before March 29th, you'll be entered into a drawing for an AMD/ATI FirePro V4800 graphics card. Visit the SWUGN Summit - Phoenix page, check out the sessions, and then jump to the registration button.
I was talking with Joe Lance the other night after the HOUSUG meeting, and he was telling me the story of one Halliburton engineer that reluctantly attended SolidWorks World 2011 in San Antonio. Joe's exact words were "We had to drag her kicking and screaming to San Antonio."
Well..as it turns out..that wasn't exactly true. I wanted to hear the real story, so I sent an email to Lesley Fessler. Here are her exact words:
Well, I wouldn’t say I went in kicking and screaming. It was more like I was a little outside of my comfort zone because I didn’t know what to expect and (being a somewhat stereotypical engineer) I feel nervous and awkward when meeting a lot of new people. It was decided the Thursday before the conference that I would attend and I had to cancel some other plans and put on hold for 3 days the projects that I was working on. Also, we have never sent an engineer from our group to SWW before so I was unsure that I would get anything out of the trip and, not knowing what to expect, I also felt compelled to make sure I made the trip worth it. Thanks to your 3 for 2 special, Joe convinced our boss to let me go this year. We also sent someone from IT and someone from CAD Support who hadn’t been to SWW before either.
When the Apollo 13 guys started speaking at the general session on Monday, I was in awe. When they spoke about the tools at their disposal during those times, they really put into perspective how much technology has changed human life in recent history. Being a young engineer, I know I can’t truly appreciate the recent leaps in technology but hearing stories like the one they told gets me a step closer. I have spent my entire career in a 3D world. It takes a completely different mindset to be able to design in 2D and I’ll never know what that’s like. Everything evolves I guess. During that speech I gained a new appreciation for the modern luxuries I have at work and at home. This may sound silly but during that speech I also felt proud to be human – to be a part of something bigger than myself and to be creating products from ideas. That’s something so special but I take it for granted so often.
I was surprised at how many break-out sessions were geared towards engineers and also that SW has a pretty powerful simulation package. We have been using ANSYS for simulation but I personally find it not to be very user friendly. I heard several years ago from some colleagues that SW has simulation software but we don’t use it because it’s not as powerful as ANSYS and doesn’t produce reliable results, or something along those lines. At that time I think the latest version of simulation software we had in SW was Cosmos (I think we were running SW2005 or 2007). Since then I have just dismissed the possibility of running any simulation in SW and honestly I had forgotten it was even an option. So when I attended SWW I was surprised to learn that SW Simulation exists and can yield just as meaningful results as ANSYS can. When I returned to work I learned that I had a license for Simulation and I had our CAD guy install it for me. When I get some free time I am planning on doing a side-by-side comparison between Simulation and ANSYS to see how the results compare.
When I got back to work I spoke to my boss about the trip and let him know that engineers can really benefit from going to SWW. Hopefully next year we will be able to send more people.
I think that pretty much says it all. I've heard from a lot of folks that were "first timers" this year and they all had similar experiences. If you've never been to a SolidWorks World conference, start your planning and justification now. SolidWorks World 2012 in San Diego is a few months away, but it's never too early to start working on it. Who knows, maybe you'll have the same revelation that Lesley had.
Little did we know back in 2000 that SWUGN would be so successful. In fact, in 2000 we didn't really know just how many SolidWorks User Groups even existed. A 2004 "reconciliation" put the number at 66 worldwide. In November of 2007, the Central Savannah River Area SolidWorks User Group became the 100th group in the US.
And now we stand at 200, but not for long. There are at least 2 more groups coming on line in the next few days, and our 2011 "Fill The Holes" campaign is meant to create additional SolidWorks User Groups in areas that are lacking. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see 220 - 230 groups registered by the end of this year.
The credit for the success of SWUGN lands square on the shoulders of the SWUGN Committee and the local chapter leaders. These folks take time away from their families and other activities to provide SolidWorks users with an amazing resource. If you're not a member of a local SolidWorks User Group chapter, you are missing out on additional training, terrific networking opportunities, and a chance to make some great friends.
Check the SWUGN "Find a Group" page for a local chapter in your area. If you live and work in an area that needs a group, consider starting one. If you hurry, you could be group number 201 (or 202, or 203).
When I left Austin on Monday, there were seven states in the US that I had never visited. I crossed the border into South Dakota on Tuesday afternoon, heading for the inaugural meeting of the Sioux Falls SolidWorks User Group.
More than 40 SolidWorks users showed up to this first meeting, and were treated to some great food (Bob's Cafe- I highly recommend the chicken), two technical sessions, and ample opportunity to meet some new folks. Looks like the SFSWUG is off to a great start.
Yesterday afternoon I drove perhaps the straightest highway in the whole country (I-29) into North Dakota, crossing over just after 2:00pm. I'm here today for another first meeting - the Eastern North Dakota SolidWorks User Group. We're expecting a good crowd here too - the weather is pretty good for this time of year, and there will be some really good technical sessions.
So this week I got to cross two states off my list of "never visited" That leaves five - Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, and West Virginia - that I've yet to see. With the way that SWUGN is growing, it shouldn't be hard to complete the fifty state list very soon.
I couldn't believe the conversation I had with someone on Wednesday morning after the SolidWorks World special event. It went something like this:
Old Grumpy Guy: "Why would they schedule a rock band for a bunch of low-key engineers?"
Me: "Huh? You didn't like the band?"
Old Grumpy Guy: "No. I left early."
Me: "Well then, you missed 500 to 600 hundred so called "low key engineers" crowded on the dance floor fist-pumping, waving hands, jumping up and down, and singing at the top of their lungs."
Old Grumpy Guy: "Really?"
Yes, really. The SolidWorks World special events are the stuff of legend. This year may have been the best ever, and the band - "LC Rocks of Austin, Texas" - was part of the reason. Churning out tunes ranging from Ozzie Osborn, to Van Halen, to Guns N Roses, they made the latter part of the event feel like a rock concert. Turns out, this was the largest crowd they had ever played for, and it really looked like they were enjoying it as much as we were. If there's any doubt that scheduling this band for the event was a bad idea, take a look at this picture.
I won't discount the rest of the evening - the bull riding was a very cool, the card tables were always full, and the food....whoa. But when the band played their last song, and we brought them out for an encore (past the 10:00pm time limit I might add). there was little doubt that they were the hit of the show.
The registration process at SolidWorks World works like a well-oiled machine, but there are a few things you can do to make it even easier.
Get there early
Registration opens Sunday at 7:00am and will stay open until 7:00pm. The lines are shortest first thing in the morning, and it shouldn't take you more than a few minutes to finish the whole process. There are certain times of the day when the lines will be long, but it's hard to predict. Here's a tip - if you see a bus pull up outside, get in line quickly. Some of the international attendees travel in large groups, and it's not uncommon for 40 - 60 people to arrive at one time and hit the registration desk.
Bring your ID
All attendees must show proof of identity, and that means a picture ID. Drivers license, passport, etc.
Get everything you're entitled to
In addition to your badge, you should also receive a conference program (large and small), a gift (a laptop bag, backpack, or similar), and some literature from the SolidWorks World sponsors. You might also be directed to a secondary area to receive a commemorative T-shirt.
Hang around for a while
You might get a chance to meet (and thank) some of the behind the scenes folks that put SolidWorks World together. You'll probably get a chance to meet someone you know from the forums (or blogs, or Twitter, or Facebook). Lots of SolidWorks employees also make it a point to be in the area to help direct you to CSWP exam rooms, alpha testing (if you're involved), or even just help you get the lay of the land. For the past 3 years, I've been doing just that, and I'll be there again this year.
One of the things I always look forward to is the special event at SolidWorks World. This year's Special Event features cowboys, poker, and 80's rock, along with food and drinks (and lot's of people). But I'm most interested in climbing back on a mechanical bull for the first time in more than 25 years.
Back in the mid-eighties, I worked for a time in Cheyenne, Wyoming during one of the biggest annual rodeo events in the world - Frontier Days. I was prodded into riding a mechanical bull one night, and really had fun. I ended up riding the darn thing 8 or 9 times, but also ended up with bruises up and down both thighs - serious bruises folks - I've never seen anything like it before or since. It didn't hurt, but it sure was ugly. I've never had the chance since to get back on one of these beasts, but you're going to have to fight me for the first spot in line.
Several years ago the SolidWorks World events team came up with the idea for the Birds-of-a-Feather lunches. Attendees were encouraged to sit down and break bread with fellow SolidWorks users that worked in the same industry, or had a common interest in certain aspects of SolidWorks software. The lunch tables were festooned with brightly colored signs, and attendees were handed a color coded "map" of the room when they walked in. You could grab your buffet lunch, look for the category of interest, and sit down and chat with like minded individuals. It was a great idea.....
...until 5000 people started showing up at SolidWorks World each year.
Last year the idea was moved to separate rooms and became the Birds-of-a-Feather "sessions". Initially that caused some confusion - were these sessions or simply a chance to meet up with fellow attendees? Turns out it's a little bit of both.
This year the Birds-of-a-Feather "Sessions" will again be held in breakout rooms, and will be hosted by representatives from SolidWorks. There are 10 different sessions (or topics if you will) ranging from "Advanced Surfacing" to "CAD Administration", to "SolidWorks Routing." You can see the complete list here.
So here's my take on how best to take advantage of the sessions. Some of the hosts will have SolidWorks running during the session, but since they are only 35 minutes long, you probably won't get a chance to have any specific issues addressed or resolved. Better to use that time to introduce yourself and make plans to meet with them later.
If your intent is to meet fellow SolidWorks users with common interests, walk into the room and proclaim "I'm here to talk about <your topic here>." Bring along a bunch of business cards, meet as many people as you can in 35 minutes, and make sure you follow up later or even after the conference. You should walk out of the room with a lot of new contacts, and maybe even a new friend or two.
The Birds-of-a-Feather sessions start at 12:45pm on conference Wednesday so eat your lunch quickly. Remember, you only have 35 minutes so make the most of it.
The SolidWorks World 2011 "Special Event" has been posted, and it looks like a good one. There's a little something for everyone this year - professional bull riders (and a mechanical bull for those that dare), table games (poker tables I hope), Tex-Mex food, and one of Austin's best cover bands - LC Rocks.
The "Special Event" is one of the highlights each year (okay...most years) and I'm looking forward to as always. It's hard to pick a favorite from previous years - was it Mardis Gras World in New Orleans, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, or the Gaslight District in San Diego? It's hard to pick one.
What was your favorite SolidWorks World "Special Event"?
The official launch of SolidWorks 2011happens tomorrow (September 1st) and I've been hanging out with a bunch of SolidWorks bloggers all day today in Concord while they get a close look at the new features and functionality. I know they are all itching to start writing about what they're seeing, but they are under a news embargo until 8:00am EDT tomorrow.
They were thrown one "Christmas Eve" present though - they can talk all they want about DraftSight on the Mac that's coming soon. If I recall correctly, the actual answer to the question "Can we talk about that?' was - "Go, talk, write - say anything you want"
It's a terrific group of folks that are here, and you'll be able to read all about what they've learned today by visiting the following blogs after 8:00am EDT on September 1st.
Ah, the age old question. Has anyone ever modeled an M&M? That's the topic of discussion in this thread.
I'll bet it won't be very long before M&M models start popping up in the forum as a result. I'm guessing one will be posted by 10:00pm Central Daylight Time tonight.
And here's some incentive - the first person to post a SolidWorks modeled M&M gets a sweet polo shirt. One rule - it has to look like an M&M with color, logo, etc. Plain or Peanut - your choice. Post your model in the thread indicated above.
The person who guesses closest to the actual date/time of the first model posted gets a SolidWorks hat. Use the comments here to make your guess.
(You have to make your guess before the model gets posted).
One of the toughest things about presenting a technical session at SolidWorks World is making sure you're ready. This is especially true for first-time presenters, but even seasoned veterans know the best way to make sure is to do your session ahead of time - in front of an audience.
SolidWorks User Group meetings are the perfect place to polish up a technical session for SolidWorks World. Not only will you have an audience, you'll have an engaged audience that knows what you're talking about and can critique your session and offer advice to help make it even better. Plus, you get the satisfaction of knowing you've helped fellow SolidWorks users even well ahead of the conference.
SolidWorks User Group leaders are always on the lookout for new presenters and new sessions. Check the SWUGN calendarfor the dates and times of meetings in your area. Then, send an email to the group leader and see if they can fit you in. Even if the schedule is already set, you can offer your session for the next meeting.
If there isn't a SolidWorks User Group in your immediate area, contact me and maybe I can help.
If you're planning to attend SolidWorks World 2011 in San Antonio next year, make sure you add a visit to The Alamo to your list of things to do. The site of one of the most famous battles in US history is located about 1/2 mile from the convention center and is an easy walk.
The fist time I visited The Alamo was back in 1991 shortly after I moved to Austin. I was expecting it to be "out in the country", and was very surprised to learn that the site is smack-dab in the middle of town. I've been back several times since - seems everyone that comes to visit us in Texas wants to go - and I'll look forward to walking around and reading about this part of Texas history again.
There's no charge for admission (there's a donation box at the door - slip a couple of bucks into it), and will take anywhere from 1/2 hour to 2 hours depending on how much of the information you decide to absorb. I like to read everything that's available, and see every exhibit. Even after many visits, I'll look forward to seeing it again.
For more information about The Alamo, see their website.