A Conversation With Riley Lewis

On Day 4 of SolidWorks World, SolidWorks CEO Bertrand Sicot announced that they had shipped the millionth educational license of SolidWorks. The CAD press likes to make a noise of how the CAD vendors give away their software to schools to make their install base look big. The conversation you are about to read will show you that there is something far more important going on here. During his speech Bertrand pointed to Riley Lewis, a 13 year old boy sitting in the front row and spoke about the amazing stuff he was doing with SolidWorks. Later I caught up with Riley and spent some time with him. This is how our conversation went.

Deelip: When did you start using SolidWorks?

Riley: I started using SolidWorks when I was eleven. I was in sixth grade and doing a project for a competition.

Deelip: Did you use something else before SolidWorks?

Riley: Yes. I used Google SketchUp. But it was really kind of a wooden interface for what I was doing.

Deelip: So what did you not like about it?

Riley: It didn’t have materials definitions and accurate physics. So I really couldn’t use it to simulate my designs.

Deelip: What made you choose SolidWorks and not something else?

Riley: Elise Moss brought it into school. So we got is free pretty much. And I had a laptop powerful enough to run it.

Deelip: Did you need training? Or did you pick it up on your own?

Riley: I learned a little from Elise and then from tutorials online.

Deelip: How easy or difficult was it  to learn SolidWorks?

Riley: It was fairly easy after I got the basics, like how to extrude stuff. Yeah, it was quite easy after the first couple of tutorials.

Deelip: What are your future plans with SolidWorks? Do you want to learn and do more or learn something else?

Riley: Oh, I always want to learn more. I got some of the tutorials from SolidProfessor and HSMWorks down at their boots in the partner pavillion.

Deelip: I see that you do analysis as well.

Riley: Yeah, failure analysis is one of the big things for projects. Just figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it.

Deelip: Do you find the analysis part a little hard to understand and interpret?

Riley: I find it fairly easy after I figured out how to do it once or twice. The first time I did it I forgot to add a support on one end.

Deelip: So do you think doing failure analysis over time helps come up with better designs and end up with lesser design iterations?

Riley: Oh, yeah. Sure, you have to go back and fix things. But doing failure analysis guides me and helps me understand a bit how things work.

Deelip: What do you want to be when you grow up? An engineer?

Riley: An engineer or a sales person, I’m not sure.

Deelip: Sales person?

Riley: I like talking to people and helping them. I like saying, “You know what, maybe this will be a better option for you. Or you could do this in another way.

Deelip: Ah! I see. You mean technical sales.

Riley: Yeah, technical sales. More like recommendations.

Deelip: But before going down that road I think you will need to undergo some formal engineering studies.

Riley: Yeah, I think my major is going to be mechanical engineering. Then I may go into small parts and nanotechnology after that. I’m not sure.

Deelip: Do your friends use SolidWorks as well?

Riley: I have all sorts of friends who think like me. About half of them are programmers. I program in Python and I have a couple of friends who use SolidWorks. My friend Vernon has figured it out but needs a better computer.

Deelip: What computer do you use?

Riley: I have a HP Pavillion G60 with AMD Turion Dual Core and NVIDIA GeForce 8200M.

Deelip: Tell you what. If I ask you to write an essay on a  particular feature of SolidWorks, do you think you will be able to write one? You can choose the feature you want to write on.

Riley: Sure. I’d choose Sustainability because I have been using that feature a lot lately mainly because green is the big thing in our schools. I can use it for pretty much all my projects. And also I can type at 50 words per minute.

Deelip: (laughs)I would like to stay in touch with you.

Riley: Sure. Thanks.

=== x ===

Maybe I’ll get Riley to actually review Sustainability in SolidWorks. At least that will be a review by a user, albeit a 13 year old. But a real user nonetheless.

  • Doyle808

    I got to spend a fair amount of time with Riley and found him to be an energetic kid with the confidence of a grown man. When he somehow scored an employee badge, he showed it to me and said “See, now I can go anywhere.” He’s also looking ofrward to leading a user group someday. My kind of kid!!

  • Gerald

    Thanks Deelip. It was nice to know kids doing design. Hope the culture comes to Amchein Goa also?

  • Gerald

    Thanks Deelip. It was nice to know kids doing design. Hope the culture comes to Amchein Goa also?

  • Gerald

    Thanks Deelip. It was nice to know kids doing design. Hope the culture comes to Amchein Goa also?

  • Riley

    Hey, Thanks for publishing the blog update, and when do you want me to do the review

    • It was nice spending time with you. I don’t have your email address. Drop me a line at deelip (at) sycode (dot) com.

  • Rileys_dad

    As Riley’s “minder” for the week, his mom and I want to give a big THANKS to the entire community for the exceptional treatment everyone gave him. One and all made him feel welcome, included and a definete part of what he describes as the “tribe”.

    He may be doing some neat things and have some even bigger ideas, but you all made it great for him.

    • Riley’s a great kid. He is going to go places.

    • Sallyks

       hey, riley’s dad, this is your Haute Cousine.  I saw Nan today.

      This is a fabulous story about your boy.  what a kick, as your mom might have said.


  • unknown

    i’m riley’s friend

    • Riley

      sup prasanth

  • Bertrand Sicot


    Glad you got the chance to meet Riley in person – he continues to impress. Rumor has it, he’s also already had a couple of job offers from the community but I know his Dad wants him to put school first.

    On that note, I wanted to clarify that while we provide special pricing to the educational world, SolidWorks is not free. Riley received access to SolidWorks through the Laney Community College Summer Camp but typically schools (not individual students) will pay for SolidWorks licenses as part of a student access program.

    We continue to look for creative ways to make SolidWorks widely available but our educational program is at the end of the day, a business.

  • SiERRA*

    he sits next to me and always helps me with my science! 😀 hi riley it’s sierra!
    im also designing his wedding! 🙂

    • Riley

      sup Zuz

  • Riley’s Dad

    Hey Sierra! He needs to get his CSWP (and finish 7th grade) before we make any wedding pland.

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  • Great review.

  • This conversation is informative…

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