We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 297: Solid modeling classes, free for all!

Teaching online

Luckily teaching my course online makes it easier, not harder!

Today marks the start of my summer class. It’s a small group and while it doesn’t directly have anything to do with brain-machine interfaces (frankly none of my research in the lab does) in the age of commercialized 3D printing knowing how to solid model is an important skill that can be applied to basically anything, yes even brain-machine interfaces! Best of all, you can learn with us for free (software included)!

The protests are going, the pandemic is hitting its second wave (just kidding we never actually stopped the first wave!), and governments are doing some shady shit to defend racists (looking at you Bristol, fishing out the statue, shame on you). However, I have responsibilities to the people I’m mentoring so while I will still be supporting the protests some of my posts will most likely be for my class to refer back to when they need it.

My classes are only once a week, so there will still be plenty of black lives matter news and thoughts. I mean JK Rowling is still a shitty human being, so I’m sure there will be plenty of shit to talk about. Okay, I’m getting off topic…

Basically I’m teaching a small group how to do solid modeling. While we will be using solidworks for the class, a lot of the ideas that I will be covering would apply to any solid modeling software. Frankly, they are all basically the same thing, especially the paid software, but they put the tools in different places, so once you know the techniques using one software, it’s just a matter of finding those tools in another.

Since only one of the people in my little group has any solid modeling experience and knows how to use solidworks in particular, but has no formal experience, we’re going to start off simple. Today I’m teaching them how to think about modeling an object. Even the most complex looking things can be broken down into simple shapes. By looking at things with an eye for these simple shapes we can make very complex looking things easily.

To demonstrate this, I’ll be using a few basic shapes to create the cat toy shown below. It was the most complex looking shape I could find in the house and it will give me a chance to demonstrate how simple the shapes that go into making this object really are. It also has the three little balls inside the tracks and I’m going to show how we can create those and use solidworks to animate them. Tomorrow I’ll create a post explaining the first part of that, creating the shape itself, it so they can reference it if needed. It should be interesting!

cat toy

Yes, it looks complex, but that cat toy is actually just a couple of very simple and basic shapes! Don’t believe me? You’ll see tomorrow.

For those of you who want to follow along and learn how to do this yourself, but don’t have access to solidworks, fear not! You can follow along with this series. I’ve created a new category for those posts called Solid Modeling for Beginners, hopefully that link works I’ll update it if it doesn’t after tomorrow (edit – checked the link and it works! yay!!). There’s nothing in the category as of this writing, but tomorrow there will be and it should work then!

In your case my dear readers if you do not have access to solidworks, you can use the free software sketchup. Like I said at the intro, the process and tools are the same, it’s just the location of those tools that is different. I’ll try to make notes about those differences so you can easily find the tools we are using as well.

I want this course to be accessible for anyone wanting to learn and the best way to do that is to use free software. It won’t let you do some of the more complex things you can do in solidworks, but it will let you do some pretty amazing things!

With that, I only have a couple of hours and I need them to get ready for my class. Tomorrow we will get to see what I was teaching and I’m excited to get more people into solid modeling. It’s a great skill and one that has so many uses I couldn’t list or even think of them all!


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