News Release:NIAR implements engineering education in high schools program
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NIAR implements engineering education in high schools program

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A program initiated by Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) is giving area high school students exposure to computer-aided design (CAD) classes.

The classes, instructed by NIAR engineers, familiarize students with CATIA, the primary computer-aided design software used by Wichita manufacturers and widely across the world in industries such as industrial design, automotive, ship-building, medical and aerospace.

The classes were taught this year at Andover High and Andover Central High. The goal is to expose students to CATIA processes and technical software knowledge so they can engage in applied learning opportunities early in their college careers in areas such as 3D printing, reverse engineering, ergonomics, machining, electrical layout, and analysis and simulation.

John Tomblin, WSU vice president for research and technology transfer and NIAR executive director, conceived the idea for the program as a response to the demands of the local industry seeking more skilled candidates.

"We hope this model will lead to engagement with many schools across the area," said Tomblin. "The flexibility and widespread application of CATIA software makes it an indispensable tool in the manufacturing industry. For engineers, a solid knowledge of CATIA is as important as a child's knowledge of the ABCs."

Wichita State's partnership with Dassault Systemes is also a driving force for the earlier exposure. The 3DExperience Center, which will be located in the Experiential Engineering Building, will focus on enabling advanced product development and manufacturing of next generation manufacturing materials and technologies.

"Similar to Wichita State, providing learning opportunities for all ages is key to Dassault Systemes academia mission," said Jeff Smith, aerospace and defense ideas lab director for Dassault Systemes. "Teaching these students the basics of CATIA, a world leading solution for product design and experience, is only the beginning of establishing a 'learning by experiencing' model."

"The program engages with the community to better prepare students for the educational expectations of industry," said WSU president John Bardo. "It helps move toward the WSU Strategic Plan vision of the university becoming an internationally recognized model for applied learning and research."

Giving high schoolers a head start

In addition to assignments that involve understanding design processes and modeling predetermined parts, the students choose a complex object to model for their final project. They are also able to have their parts 3D-printed. Through these procedures, they gain an understanding of the dynamics and complexity of the engineering process and develop problem-solving skills.

"I learned how to use CAD software when I was in high school and it really helped me through college," said Tarun Bali, senior aerospace engineering student at WSU. "With the workload of the core engineering classes, mastering CATIA in its entirety can be a daunting pipe dream for aspiring engineers who haven't been introduced to it at an earlier stage."

Instructor and NIAR research engineering Ryan Longwell said the response to the classes has been tremendous.

"The Andover school district is fortunate to have innovative partners like Wichita State and NIAR," said Matt Forney, member of the Andover Board of Education. "Exposure to CATIA classes at the high school level provides not only a jumpstart to future degrees in engineering, but also gives them real world applied learning that is invaluable at this point in their life. We are grateful for their support and expertise."

Students see the value in the course as well. Many of them have parents or immediate family members working in the industry.

"I wanted to enroll in this course because I knew it would challenge my thinking and problem solving skills," said Andover High student Joshua Stock. "I was already interested in pursuing my engineering degree in aviation, so I thought this course would be perfect for me."

NIAR instructors would like to see the courses offered at all high schools to help inspire students towards the STEM fields and act as a recruitment tool for Wichita State. Future expansion of the program will depend on budget availability.

NIAR's CAD/CAM Lab is an official education partner of Dassault Systemes, developer of CATIA software. The CAD/CAM Lab has a reputation in the aviation industry for providing quality training and instructional material.


Shawn Ehrstein, NIAR CAD/CAM Lab director, or 316-978-5839.

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