The Future is STEM: Judging the IDEA Regional Design Competition

On February 28, 2018, I served as a judge for the annual Illinois Design Educators Association‘s (IDEA) 3D CAD Modeling and Engineering Design regional competition for high schoolers, held at Waubonsee Community College. We at GSC take every opportunity to serve our community, especially when it involves young people and STEM education, so I was honored to have been asked to participate and eagerly accepted the invitation.

It was another pleasant surprise when I received the judging assignments, to recognize the name of Jim Wesley, a long-time friend, GSC customer, and now an employee of our associates at Sterling Engineering.

GSC and Sterling Engineering at IDEA competition

The competitions took on two parallel tracks, one judging mechanical and architectural drafting, 2D and 3D CAD part and assembly modeling work. Students were judged on drafting and modeling accuracy, respectively. Jim and I were assigned to the 3D CAD Part Modeling competition, as it most closely aligned with our own past 3D CAD design experience. The students come from schools using SOLIDWORKS software or others.

IDEA Competition Judging

The other track was an Engineering Design challenge and, while the CAD modeling skills of these high schoolers were notable, this was downright impressive. Student teams were given a design brief dictating that their designs be manufacturable by those with varying disabilities, meet stringent cost guidelines, be unique and customizable, and consist of a minimum number of unique parts.

Deliverables were to include documentation and Gantt charts of the process, CAD drawings and models, BOMs, cost estimates, product plans and assembly instructions, packaging and, of course, a prototype! Teams were to give a 10-minute presentation on their process and design, followed by 5 minutes of questioning by the judges. Judging criteria was based on the presentation, in addition to the quality of their process, product documentation and prototype.

Here are a couple sample winners in the Mechanical category – modular sunglasses from a team whose market research was phenomenal…

IDEA Competition Mechanical Design Entry

…and check out the 3D printed prototype on this well-thought-out bird feeder!

IDEA Competition Mechanical Design Entry

It is a frustrating irony of judging competitions like these and having to rate teams when clearly all the entrants were absolute winners. I’m sure they all brought much pride to their families and schools.

IDEA Competition Scoring

Our final highlight – in a day full of highlights – was a recent format change allowing the judges themselves to have the honor of handing out the awards to the winners at the end of the day.

IDEA Design Competition Awards

I look forward to the day when I will be working side-by-side with some of these young people as customers and fellow GSC employees. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s “something wrong with kids these days!”

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Meet the Author

Sam Hochberg

Sam thrives on showing people how to make better stuff, faster. He consults students and customers through this process with pre- and post-sale discussions and implementation of their CAD tools. Forever a teacher and trainer, Sam enjoys empowering others through providing technical knowledge and product solutions.

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