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.