SolidWorks World 2010 General Session – Monday (part3)

James McLurkin isn’t the most polished of presenters, but he is extremely interesting.  In a plug for SolidWorks, McLurkin stated, “I’m not just a SolidWorks speaker.  I’m also a client.”  He is an engineer and roboticist specializing in swarm robotics.  He demonstrated his swarm of little micelike robots at SolidWorks World this year.  He talked about how they move round within the group, including comments about communication limitations between of a swarm.  Though his technology and research may one day lead to the great robot revolution, he stated that will not likely occur in our time.  “Only a handful of robots can open a door, and none if you have to pull [it open].”  He gleefully added, “If the robot revolution happened tomorrow, you’d be perfectly safe just by closing your door.”  I still say the robot revolution will one day come, and I welcome our future metallic overlords (once they are in power, of course).

McLurkin talked for some time about “Nerd Pride” and extolled engineers to release their nerd to the world.  This can be done in a number of ways, such as giving nerdy gifts, voting for education candidates, helping out schools and related projects, teaching, etc.

At the press conference that followed, McLurkin was asked about the value of simulation versus real world.  He answered, “the problem with simulation is that you can only test what you put in.”  He also talked about the difference of biological inspiration and biological mimicry.  To him, biological inspiration is understanding and applying how nature works; biological mimicry is simply copying a successful system within nature.  Though I understand his general point, I do not think he fully made clear any meaningful distinction as they would both seem to be interrelated.

SolidWorks World 2008 Animation

SolidWorks World 2008 Inspired to Design VEXplorer Video from Solidsmack on Vimeo.

This was the introduction animation (linked above) used each day at the start of the General Session.  In a presentation with Jeff Ray, VEXplorer was introduced.  This is a Student Design Kit where kids of ages 10 and up can build their own robot, and design other variations with the Student Edition of SolidWorks, which is now provided for free with the robot kit.  Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed with the robot itself.  I saw the live demonstration of the robot in the Partners Pavilion.  It would be fun for one or two uses for one or two times.  I don’t see what would keep the average kid coming back to it.  However, it is a start in the right direction to help inspire kids to explore design at a younger age.  It is certainly a good way to expose kids to SolidWorks as the preferred software for accomplishing engineering tasks.