For more than a decade the Parametric Technology Corporation, better known as PTC, has been designing a nurturing relationship with the UMass Amherst Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department that starts with a free annual license for the company’s trademark CAD modeling software. But our favored status goes far beyond the licenses PTC has donated. PTC’s contributions include MIE scholarships, annual donations to the department’s NSF e-Design and Wind Energy centers, support for the college’s Women in Engineering program, and participation on various advisory boards. Besides all that, PTC has recruited more than 70 MIE graduates to work at the company, the second highest number of employees at PTC from any university in the world.
“During the past two decades,” says Dr. Sundar Krishnamurty, a professor in the MIE department and co-director of the NSF Center for e-Design, “PTC has made a significant difference in the lives of many of our students.”
PTC’s most enduring contribution to UMass is a sophisticated CAD software formerly known as Pro/ENGINEER (ProE for short), but recently changed to Creo Elements.
“For almost two decades, we’ve used ProE extensively throughout our curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate level as the main software for training students in all their design related activities,” says Krishnamurty.
The university edition license includes an industry standard 3D design program, along with some 55 other applications that include analysis tools, sheet metal apps, and Behavioral Modeling® modules. In addition to the software, teachers and professors receive training and tutorials, technical support, and software upgrades to enhance the teaching environment. The free UMass license is provided through the PTC Education Initiative, a design and technology program engineered for students from secondary through the university level.
“We have approximately 400 students in our undergraduate MIE program,” says Krishnamurty. “Every one of them can get a free copy of ProE and take it with them when they graduate. We teach them how to use that software, they use it in our courses, and PTC’s program is installed in the computers in our labs. And it’s all for free.”
The PTC employee who has been most active at UMass Amherst is John D. Stuart, senior vice president of Global Education. “PTC is pleased to partner with the University of Massachusetts Amherst Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department on multiple dimensions,” says Stuart. “Whether it is support for the Center for e-Design and the National Science Foundation, or wind energy, or scholarship, or board, or student software adoption support, PTC is committed to the college’s goal of becoming a world-class engineering school.”
PTC’s support of UMass Amherst began in the 1990s when the company gave the MIE department a free site license, now worth about $6,500 per year if we had to pay for it, giving all of our students free reign to use the company’s advanced CAD software, worth upwards of $10 million on the open market. Then, following the 9/11 tragedy, PTC established a $100,000 scholarship fund, commemorating that event, for students involved with robotics. Over the past few years, PTC has also made financial contributions to the Women in Engineering program, as well as the e-Design and Wind Energy centers.
Stuart, himself, has also been a board member for both of those centers and has served on the MIE department advisory board since 2004, co-chairing that group since 2008.
Undoubtedly, the most lasting gift from PTC for MIE students is the design software formerly known as ProE. “We learned ProE in freshman 113,” says senior MIE major Jeff McPherson. “I used it in 313, 413, and several other courses. In freshman year, right away, I got it installed on my computer, and I was so excited about it that I used the software to model this big gum machine sitting on my desk, just for the heck of it.”
McPherson is involved as a summer REU student with the Center for e-Design in ongoing research involving Creo Elements/Pro and another modeling software. The research is trying to exchange data between the two programs while maintaining all the information intact, a very practical process which could be used commercially by many companies that exchange designs using differing modeling software systems. So, when it comes ProE/Creo, McPherson knows what he’s talking about.
“I live on the North River at home in Norwell, Massachusetts,” says McPherson, who is planning to continue in the MIE department and the Center for e-Design while working toward his Masters degree after he graduates in December, “and I want to use the PTC modeling software to make a pedal boat. I’ve been fooling around with that design for like two years now.”
With ProE/Creo you can model practically anything, from simple 2D auto-CAD drawings to complex 3D models. It also includes an amazing number of tools.
“If we didn’t have this relationship with PTC,” says Krishnamurty, “we’d have to pay thousands of dollars a year for the license to the modeling software necessary for our coursework. With the PTC license, we have a full-blown modeling software that is far more sophisticated than any software we’d have to pay for.”
And, as we’ve seen, that’s only one dimension of our model relationship with PTC, designed in many dimensions by the company, using its very own 3D software. (May 2011)