Helping The Next Generation of Engineers

Are you living the SWUGLife?

Did you SLUGME?

Will you be at SWW19?

Do you want to help EKGAR?

What do all of these acronyms mean?!?


SWUG is “SOLIDWORKS User Group” – If you are truly living the “SWUGLife,” you probably spend a good portion of your time with the SOLIDWORKS Community. SWUGLife was created when User Group Leader Kameron Smith commemorated the lifestyle by putting a sweet logo on a t-shirt.


SLUGME is “SOLIDWORKS Largest User Group Meeting Ever” – This is a once a year event when User Groups from around the world all come together and log-in to see one of the UG Leaders give a presentation.


SWW19 is “SOLIDWORKS World 2019” – This is the annual gathering for everyone that has a passion for all things SOLIDWORKS, and is on the journey to learn as much about the software as possible.


EKGAR is “Every Kid Gets A Robot” – This is an absolutely amazing concept put together by recent high school graduate Danielle Boyer. I found out about her work on the SOLIDWORKS blog last July.

Here is the link to that post – Danielle Boyer – EKGAR

I thought this was such an incredible story, because I often find myself asking “Where were all the robotics teams’ way back when I was in high school?” Instead of just asking the question, Danielle stepped up and made it happen!

Here is a ‘sneak peek’ at the latest concept that will help bring the cost of a robot from $50 all the way down to $20!

New Robot Design

Here is what brings all of these acronyms together . . .

For SLUGME 2018, Kam put the SLUGME logo on the back of the SWUGLife shirt, and we made it available to everyone.

The winner of the SWUGLife shirt at SLUGME!

But that is not all . . . EVERY dollar raised from selling the t-shirts is being donated to EKGAR!

We are going to do one last big push before SWW19, so that everyone can get their shirt before they head to Dallas, and I will be able to present Danielle with a check to help her push EKGAR to the next level.

Get your SWUGLife/SLUGME shirt at the link below – They will only be available for two weeks (So that you can get it in time for SWW19!)

All proceeds from the shirts that are sold will be donated to EKGAR!

These shirts make great giveaway items for your next meeting!

If you are interested, you can also donate extra using the link below.


Hope to see you wearing one of these shirts in Dallas!


SOLIDWORKS World 2018 – SWUGN Awards

This was a very big year for me at SOLIDWORKS World . . .

I achieved one of my biggest long term goals!

Every year during the General Session, Richard Doyle talks about the SOLIDWORKS User Group Network (SWUGN), and he finishes by presenting the SWUGN Awards. There is an award for User Group Leader of the Year, User Group of the Year, and the Michelle Pillers Community Award.

This year I received the User Group Leader of the Year AND the Michelle Pillers Community Award!

(Look for “SOLIDWORKS World 2018 General Session Day 1” – SWUGN section starts at 75 minutes.)

Getting my name on the Michelle Pillers Community Award is probably one of the greatest honors that has ever been bestowed upon me.

For those that don’t know about the award, I usually try to explain it like this:  To me, the plaque is the SOLIDWORKS equivalent of the Stanley Cup for hockey.

When a young hockey player sees the Stanley Cup, they see the names of their heroes, they see the players that inspire them to push harder, and they strive to someday earn the privilege to have their name added to this piece of hockey history.

A young Wayne Gretzky took his jersey number from his hero Gordie Howe when he started playing hockey. Gordie Howe’s name was engraved on the Stanley Cup four times during his long career. Twenty nine years after Gordie’s fourth victory, a young Wayne Gretzky had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

When that happened, Wayne had truly joined the ranks of his childhood hero, and became a part of hockey history.

This is what it feels like to me . . . I have joined a very elite group of individuals that have made significant contributions to the SOLIDWORKS Community.

I’m not going to lie, much like when a teary-eyed Wayne Gretzky hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time, I completely broke down a number of times just holding the plaque and looking at my name alongside the others.

Sadly I was never able to meet Michelle Pillers, but everyone that knew her said she was a truly incredible person. Words cannot express what it feels like to honor her legacy.

My name appears right next to Wayne Tiffany’s name on the plaque . . . He has always been a huge influence for me, and he did so much to help get my User Group going.

I am humbled to call most of the prior recipients of this award friends.


I have a couple of US Patents, but this award is “center stage” on the wall where it will be displayed for the next year.

Before the plaque is presented to the next winner at SOLIDWORKS World 2019 in Dallas, I plan to include it in pictures with as many User Group Leaders as possible . . . let’s just say this is my equivalent of “skating the cup.”

SolidWorks World 2015 – A Look Back


Oh yeah!  SolidWorks World in Phoenix, Arizona!


So many things to look forward to . . . First and foremost, the warm Phoenix weather (Nebraska is not exactly “balmy” in February), my brother and his wife live in Chandler, so we would get to hang out with them one of the nights, and they announced that Michio Kaku was going to be one of the keynote speakers! (Jade and I are really big fans.)  When we were booking our flights, we found a direct flight to Phoenix – that’s right, NO LAYOVERS!  This also meant that our little travel game of “Betcha they’re going” would be a little more difficult.  (This game involves sitting in the airport, watching people, and trying to guess if they are going to SolidWorks World.)  The funniest part was that we ran into two guys right after we got out of the car, we didn’t even make it into the terminal!

There may have been something else that had me so excited . . . Oh yeah, In 2014 I was appointed to be the Southern US Representative for the SolidWorks User Group Network! I would be attending as a SWUGN Committee Member!  This called for cool new keys –


Let’s get this party started, on to SolidWorks World 2015!


Monday’s General Session started out with an announcement that Bertrand Sicot would be stepping down as CEO to take a new position with Dassault Systemes.  It was announced that Gian Paolo Bassi would be the new CEO. (I really like GP, he became a member of the #baconbrotherhood at SWW15, and you could tell that he was having a lot of fun at the conference!)  Chris Goodine was on hand to demonstrate Thalmic Myo – an armband that allows you to control devices, apps, even SolidWorks!  Former CEO of MakerBot, Bre Pettis was on hand to talk about the next industrial revolution – “Inspiring” seems like such a small word for his presentation, it was absolutely unreal.

Tuesday is always one of my favorite days, mainly because it is when Richard gets some stage time to talk about the User Group community.  One of the coolest things about having been to SolidWorks World so many times is that you start to know many of the people and become really good friends with them.  (SWW15 was my NINTH time at the conference!)  This means that I knew the people that were winning the User Group awards – Group of the Year: San Antonio (I presented at one of their meetings), Group Leader of the Year: Denny Bahl & Don Glaske (I have worked the SWUGN booth with Denny several times), Michelle Pillars Community Award: Jeff Mirisola (I sat next to Jeff at a DriveWorks Training/Certification Event) – All of my friends won!

Marie Planchard discussed Women in Engineering, and brought Bettina Chen on stage to talk about Roominate, her engineering tool that is designed to get more girls into engineering.  Marie announced that there are now over 2 MILLION licenses of SolidWorks Education installed around the world.

This was all leading up to what I had been anxiously waiting for since they announced the keynote speakers . . . MICHIO KAKU!!


o.k. I’m a bit of a fan . . . but it was AMAZING!

Michio talked about inventing and inventions, and then moved on to his vision for the future.  One of the really cool products that he talked about was a smart contact lens that would be a lot like Google glass, but it would be directly on your eye.  He also talked about a “Robodoc” that would be similar to a mirror on your wall, it would be a part of your house, and it would be able to give instant diagnosis regarding your health, and offer suggestions for changes to improve your well being.  It seemed to go so fast, it was over before I knew it – I probably could have listened to him talk for at least another day or two.

Wednesday kicked off with GP talking about the offsite party the night before, and shared his vision of what the future holds for SolidWorks.  Jinsop Lee from Linno talked about “scoring” your designs based on how they effect your five senses – this opened a lot of eyes of people that are used to “design for manufacturing” and cost effectiveness.  There was an incredible story about Seffi Udi – he became a quadriplegic after a horrible car accident, and he began inventing devices that would allow him to continue working.  He created a 3 button mouse that he could hold in his mouth … and run SolidWorks … which he used to design his house to be fully wheelchair accessible, AND a device that would allow him to turn the pages on his kindle with a simple breath.  Seffi was in the front row, and he received the longest standing ovation from from 5500 misty-eyed people that I have ever seen . . . breathtaking and motivating at the same time.

Mechanical Conceptual was renamed Conceptual Design, the top 10 enhancements were met with cheers and sighs of relief, Model Mania was a tough one this year, there was a skit to show off some of the cool new stuff in SolidWorks 2016, and Gian Paolo announced that we would be headed to Dallas next year.

Let the countdown begin . . .


SolidWorks World 2014 – A Look Back

We were really excited about SolidWorks World being in San Diego again – it would be our THIRD time visiting this beautiful city.  Not only was I looking forward to seeing the other User Group Leaders again, I was anxious to meet up with the “Bacon Brotherhood” . . .


John Matrishon and Ed Gebo started a fun group with a common interest in . . . BACON! They made ribbons for SWW14 – Once you had a ribbon on your badge, you were a part of the “Brotherhood.”  What did it take to get a ribbon you ask?  Simple, just post a picture of yourself on twitter with the hashtag #BaconBrotherhood – Oh yeah, the important part, you had to be enjoying some bacon in the picture.  Then it was just a matter of tracking down John or Ed to get your ribbon.  The “hardcore” ones usually have theirs before the conference even starts.

On to SolidWorks World 2014 . . .


The Monday morning General Session got off to an incredible start when Jonathan Tippet from eatART “drove” out on stage with his “Spider Walker” –


(This was not taken on Monday morning, but it’s such a great picture, that I had to use it!)

Hugh Herr was one of the keynote speakers, and his presentation is still one of my all-time favorites – It was so inspiring that I still get goosebumps just thinking about it!  Hugh is a world class rock climber (actually considered to be one of the best climbers in the US when he was only 17!)  During the descent from an ice climb, he was caught in a blizzard and spent 3 nights in temperatures of -20 F.  Severe frostbite led to having his legs amputated below the knees.  Not wanting to give up the sport that he loves, Hugh designed prosthetic legs that would allow him to climb again.  In addition to re-inventing the way that he climbs, Hugh became very focused on his own education.  He earned a Bachelors degree in Physics, a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering at MIT, and a Doctorate in Biophysics from Harvard.  His work with prosthetic limbs is phenomenal to say the least.


There was a presentation for a new program named HomeByMe that allows customizing and visualizing home interiors and furnishings.  Mechanical Conceptual was shown, and they spoke with some of the customers that were on the test panel.  One of them was perennial SolidWorks World presenter Phil Sluder, and another one of them was Mike Buchli (I was fortunate enough to work with Mike when I was with the VAR, even though he was in a different office, I still managed to learn A LOT from him.)

The guys from eatART discussed their Spider Walker, their art displays, and some of the new projects that they had “in the works.”  Jonathan Tippet described how they used SolidWorks to design some tooling to convert their plasma cutter into a tubing cutter to make all of the complex cuts on the tubing that is the framework of the spider.

Another great presentation was the guys from the Bo-Dyn Bobsled team.  Geoff Bodine, who is very well known in the Nascar world, has been involved with the US Bobsled team, and helping them design faster bobsleds.  It must be working, because they took a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Sochi in their 4-man bobsled that was dubbed “Night Train.”  For me, one of the coolest parts of about the Olympic Bobsled team, is that one of the team members is Curt Tomasevicz – Former Nebraska Husker Football player and Academic All-American that earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Electrical Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  GO BIG RED!!  They brought a video of them taking Bertrand Sicot from SolidWorks for a run in the bobsled – it looked fun!


There is a new 3D Printer that does something just a little bit different than all of the other ones that are currently available . . . The MarkForg3D Printer actually embeds carbon fiber as it is printing to make super strong parts that can be bolted in place and tested!  They showed video of a formula one car that was racing with printed parts . . . just wow!

I was extremely busy at work leading up to SolidWorks World, so I ended up “re-using” my key design from SWW11, and re-tagged it for SWW14 –


To see everything that happened during the General Sessions, find a comfy chair and watch these videos:

General Session – Day 1

General Session – Day 2

General Session – Day 3

It was announced that SolidWorks World 2015 would be in Phoenix!

(I was really excited about this, because I had been suggesting Phoenix for a number of years.  Word of advice – Fill out the post conference surveys!)

SolidWorks World 2013 – A Look Back

After getting home from SolidWorks World 2012, I really wanted to dig into the new Costing tool within SolidWorks.  I dove in headfirst, and the more that I worked with it, the more I realized that this tool had a lot of potential.  I became so enamored with Costing that I decided to submit a presentation for SolidWorks World 2013 in Orlando.

It was accepted!  I was finally going to be able to say that I have presented at World!


I spent a considerable amount of time researching/testing/writing/re-writing/practicing my presentation.  I used to work for a VAR, so presenting wasn’t a big deal (it used to be a majority of my job), but I wanted everything to be as “dialed-in” as possible.

One of the people that was a huge inspiration for my presentation passed away in September of 2012 after a long fight with cancer.  Wayne Tiffany was always one of the first people that I would see when I arrived at SolidWorks World.  He was one of my favorite presenters, and his Sheet Metal presentation is one of the all-time best.  He helped me start the SolidWorks User Group of Nebraska, and was always happy to come up from Kansas City to present.  He was a fantastic guy, and I dedicated my “key” to him –


I knew that this would be a rough year at SolidWorks World without Wayne, but I heard that they were going to bring his sons to the conference and give him a well deserved tribute.  I thought that it was fantastic that his sons would be able to meet and talk with so many of the people that were influenced by Wayne, and get to see how much everyone loved and missed him.

On to SolidWorks World 2013 –


It was a little surprising to open up the program and see a picture of my wife and I.


Art Thompson, the Technical Project Director for the Red Bull Stratos Jump was on hand to talk about the logistics of Felix Baumgartner’s record breaking skydive.  I’ve jumped out of a plane at 13,500 feet – there is NO WAY I would want to jump out at 120,000 feet!

SolidWorks announced Mechanical Conceptual and  They were just starting to show the augmented reality for eDrawings – this allows you to effectively “place” your SolidWorks model “inside” your environment – amazing, just amazing.

There was a lot of cool stuff being done with robotics and quadcopters (some just for “fun” and some that were a lot more practical.)  QuadCopter Fun

There was a robotic bird that they flew around the General Session that had everyone on their feet.  While this was very cool, there was a big downside . . . This was on the day that I was going to present . . . My presentation was scheduled immediately after lunch, so I brought my laptop and all of my stuff with me to the General Session . . . Someone behind me kicked over a GIANT mug full of coffee into my backpack!  I had no idea until we were getting ready to leave the General Session.  I picked up my backpack and it was dripping with coffee.  I pulled my laptop out of my backpack, and there was coffee pouring out of it! I skipped lunch, ran to the presenters room and tried to dry off my laptop as much as possible.  I went all the way back to the hotel to finish cleaning it up and grab another backpack.  (We were staying onsite, but we weren’t at the host hotel, so it was a boat ride AND a bus ride each way.)  I went straight to my presentation room to get set up and see how everything worked.  I started the presentation and nearly passed out when the first image loaded in small segments.  Aside from a few slow loading slides, the presentation went off fairly well, and seemed to be well received.  It was definitely cool to see my name on the monitor outside the room before the presentation.


Still a little bummed that they no longer have “Presenter” ribbons, I really wanted one!


Luckily Dan Riffel supplied me with a much more fitting ribbon.  My favorite ribbon is still the SWUGN one, they added a “WT” to honor Wayne Tiffany (because he signed all of his posts on the SolidWorks forums with a “WT”.)

To see everything that happened during the General Sessions, find a comfy chair and watch these videos:

General Session – Day 1

General Session – Day 2

General Session – Day 3

It was announced that SolidWorks World 2014 would be back in San Diego!

After the conference, we decided to spend a few days at Disney with my wife’s family.

SolidWorks World 2012 – A Look Back

To say that a lot happened between SolidWorks World 2011 in San Antonio and SolidWorks World 2012 in San Diego is a bit of an understatement.

I was setting up the blog right before SWW11, and I started blogging about the conference shortly after returning home.  I was going through some of these old blog posts recently, and noticed that I posted one the night before my world changed.  I was involved in a very serious car accident about a month after getting home from San Antonio.

I wrote about it here: Todd’s Accident

This was right around the time that SolidWorks was announcing the dates/locations/sign-ups for the SWUGN Summits.  I was really looking forward to attending the Summit, and was anxious to get registered.  Probably a little too anxious if you ask my wife . . .


This is me, the day after being transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit, but still in the hospital.  Despite having 3 broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, and head trauma that caused serious double vision, I was on my phone registering for the SWUGN Summit in my region.  It still seems really weird that I felt a “need to get registered” while I was still in the hospital.  When I went to the event a few months later, it was announced that I was the first person to register for the event, and that won me a free pass to SWW12!

On to SolidWorks World!


To continue with the tradition of having great presenters from various television shows, SolidWorks brought in Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs.  It is always fun to hear people talk about doing what they love, and you can tell that Mike really enjoys his job!

Joe Dunne from SolidWorks sat down to interview Tony Fadell.  If you don’t know Tony, he has been dubbed the “Father of the iPod” – He is on a new adventure now, he created the NEST learning thermostat.

Funny story here:  A friend that I used to work with sent me a promo video for the NEST thermostat a few weeks before SolidWorks World.  I thought it was awesome.  I showed my wife, and she thought it was neat, but was not blown away.  About halfway through Tony’s interview I noticed my wife was messing with her phone.  I asked what she was doing, and she said she was pre-ordering a NEST thermostat! (I’m sure that there were a lot of pre-orders that came from that interview.)

Geoff & Mike Howe from Howe and Howe Technologies (and various Discovery Channel shows) spoke about a lot of their projects as kids, all the way up to some of their most current projects.  Ben Kaufmann from gave an overview of how Quirky is able to help people develop their products and get them to market more efficiently by making it possible for them to easily collaborate and share ideas with others around the world.

This was the second year of my “keys”, and I decided to keep the same basic design, but turn it into a handy sheet metal gauge – I’ve gotten some use out of this one –


This would be the last year that my CSWP ribbon would get me into the “CSWP Special Event” – Starting at SolidWorks World 2013 it is “CSWE Only”.


I figured that I should probably get around to taking the certification tests to get my CSWE, but this was my 6th time at SolidWorks World, and it was the first time that I had ever attended the event.  (It was a great event, held on the Midway aircraft carrier!)

It was announced that SolidWorks World 2013 would be back in Orlando!

Funny story from San Diego:  Toward the end of the conference, I was on my way to a session when I ran into one of the customers that I worked with when I was at the VAR. We were talking about the presentations that we liked, we didn’t like, and what we wanted to see.  I told him that I was really hoping to see something about the new Costing package in SolidWorks.  He just pointed to the monitor outside the room next to us, and the next presentation was an Intro to Costing.  I tried to explain that when I register for sessions, I do a quick scan for certain presenters/topics, and this was scheduled opposite Phil Sluder’s presentation, so I didn’t even “see” it.  (I ended up going to Phil’s session anyway – it’s a safe bet that you will always find me in the room when he is the presenter.)

SolidWorks World 2011 – A Look Back

Don’t be alarmed, you didn’t miss anything . . . I said that a lot happened in between SWW09 and SWW11, and I wasn’t kidding.

To keep it brief . . .

I was still with the VAR during SolidWorks World 2010 in Anaheim, and I was incredibly busy – so busy that I was unable to attend the conference!  During the conference I was onsite with one of my favorite customers, getting them up and running on Enterprise PDM.  I would check the twitter feed every so often to see what I was missing, but I was so busy with the implementation that the week just flew by.

As we neared the end of 2010, I was presented with an incredible opportunity to get back into manufacturing.  After a LOT of thought, I made the tough decision to leave the VAR, and get back into “the real world.”

Now that I have left the VAR, how did I manage to get to SolidWorks World 2011?

Well, it was nearing the end of the early registration for SolidWorks World, and SolidWorks had a contest to decide who had the best excuse for not registering early.  I had just started with a new company, and I didn’t think the timing was right to ask if they would send me to a conference, so I put something together . . . I submitted it . . . and somehow I ended up winning the contest!

SWW11 – Contest

I think that this was the big turning point, SolidWorks World started to become a really, really big deal for me, and it all started in San Antonio . . .

I am not sure if it was Matthew West that put together the contest, but he was the one that contacted me to let me know that I had won.  To say that I was extremely stoked is a huge understatement – In my email to him, I expressed my excitement and anticipation, not just because I was going to be able to attend SolidWorks World, but the conference kicked off on the day of our FIFTH wedding anniversary.  When Matthew heard the story about how Jade and I were married at SolidWorks World in Las Vegas in 2006, he said “I’ve got to tell some people about this!”

On to SolidWorks World 2011!


(As a side note, I actually started this blog shortly after returning from SolidWorks 2011, so some of this is recapping what was already said in some of my first posts – check out some of them for the “full story.”)

There was so much leading up to the conference that it almost overshadowed what actually happened at the conference . . . Which I didn’t think was even possible.

First of all, I was back to being a regular “Attendee” and not a Reseller, which meant I had a new company name on my badge –


My new employer just happened to have some of the most incredible laser cutting and engraving equipment, so I thought that it would be cool to create something that I could hand out that would separate me from the crowd, and the SWW “keys” were born!


People seemed to really like the idea of a bottle opener/key-chain/business card.  It was such a hit that I have continued to make unique “keys” for SolidWorks World each year.

Matthew (West) had contacted me prior to the conference, and said that they wanted to do something special for us during the General Session one morning.  We were given instructions on where to go to get in early, and told that there were seats waiting for us –

Rock Star Seating

Yes, my wife and I were seated right next to former CEO Jeff Ray for the General Session on Monday.  The new CEO, Bertrand Sicot, was making announcements, when all of the sudden he started talking about us, and several pictures from our wedding appeared on the screens behind him!

Announcement Backdrop

You can view the video clip from the General Session here:  SWW11 – 5th Anniversary

The Keynote Speakers were Gene Krantz and Jim Lovell from the Apollo missions – Many people still say that this was one of their favorite presentations from ANY SolidWorks World conference!  The surprise guest was Kevin Bacon, and I believe his band played at the VAR dinner on Wednesday night. (I was never known for my timing – missed out on an iPod at SWW08 by working for a VAR, missed out on the band by leaving the VAR.)

It was announced that SolidWorks World 2012 would be back in San Diego!  We really loved visiting San Diego in 2008, so we already knew that we would want to go back!