SolidWorks World 2013Monday’s SolidWorks World keynote session is tilted towards the company, with presentations from CEOs and other leaders. We take a completely different tack on Tuesday and focus on customer accomplishments in the morning general session.

Yes, a couple of customers have speaking slots, but far more are recognized with awards and other shout-outs. This morning’s session was about community, about building connections and the way that a group can learn at a much faster pace than can a lone individual. You can read about the winners here. In a very touching tribute, SolidWorks’ Richard Doyle, responsible for Interactive Communications, User Groups and Online Communities, paid tribute to SWUGN leader Wayne Tiffany who passed away last year. Mr. Tiffany’s sons Michael and Josh told us how so many people had reached out and mentioned Wayne’s help and guidance. It was a great lesson on the impact of community. Michael and Josh then announced the User Group Leader of the Year Award in Memory of Wayne Tiffany, and presented it to Peter Fischer.

This is also the time when SolidWorks promotes its certification program, announcing that over 89,000 total certifications have been awarded to date, many online. A new Drawings Tools certification will be available at the end of January (it bears the unpronounceable CSWPDRWT designation).  Also, FYI, the Certified Enterprise PDM exam will be free of charge until the June 30, 2013. Lastly, SolidWorks said that many employers specifically seek out prospective employees with certifications, and so made it easier for CSWPs to connect with employers by adding their LinkedIn profile to their listing in  SolidWorks’ database. Head on over to the SolidWorks Certification site for more info.

The customer keynotes were about robotics, very cool robotics. Before you read on, check out this YouTube video –it is absolutely safe for work– then come back. Those little guys are quadrotors, tiny flying robots that weigh in the grams, are measured in centimeters, scan their world with LIDAR and Kinect and can collaborate. In this video, they’re playing the James Bond theme. Professor Vijay Kumar of the University of Pennsylvania also showed footage of them doing synchronized flying in figure 8s, but their real purpose is in search and rescue, or hazard situations where they can perform reconnaissance and other tasks where humans can’t or shouldn’t barge in. All of us in the hall came away with a “this is SO cool” unease, in that these little guys are amazing feats of design but might just someday take over the world. Professor Kumar also talked about the importance of codesigning hardware and software, and how this  changes paradigm for innovation. Until I can get you a link to the SolidWorks World keynote* session from today, you may want to take a look at Professor Kumar’s TED talk, available here.

The quadcopters were followed by biomimicry — the idea that shapes have evolved in nature to solve specific problems; why can’t these be used in other situations? For example, an elephant’s trunk is incredibly well articulated, can bend, grab and point. Why not use that to make a handling  system mounted on a pivoting cell? Elias Knubben, CEO of FESTO, explained that nature has been optimizing structures for billions of years to improve flexibility (where needed), reduce weight, improve energy efficiency  and so on — why can’t designers learn from nature and take inspiration from it to solve their problems? Mr. Knubben showed an exo hand, designed using SolidWorks, that has applications from medical research to hazardous environments — also based on our understanding of the human hand. Mr. Knubben closed by flying his company’s SmartBird around the hall. Rather than trying to describe it, check it out here and part of his presentation today on Youtube.

These are clearly not the robots of 1950s sci-fi!

It was a great Day 2 and there’s more to say, but I’m off to party with Minnie, Mickey, Goofy and that other guy and will check in with you soon. If you missed it, the wrap-up of day 1 is here.

*The whole keynote isn’t on YouTube, but Professor Kumar’s presentation is here. I’ll update when/if the whole thing is posted.

Note: DS graciously covered some of the expenses associated with my participation here but did not in any way influence the content of this post.

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