“Haute Ecole Arc Ingénierie” - the Arc Upper School of Engineering - pursues its activities in the region of north-west Switzerland known as the Arc Jurassien, where biomedical, watchmaking, and broader micromechanical industries are heavily developed.
The school itself is a division of the Haute Ecole Arc. The parent school oversees university level training courses in the fields of applied arts, engineering, health, and economics in the Swiss cantons of Jura and Neuchâtel as well as the French speaking areas of the Berne canton.
Each year, Haute Ecole Arc trains almost 300 Bachelor of Science engineers in five branches of technology: I.T., Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Design Engineering, and Microtechniques.
In the first year, each of the last four branches above receives a core curriculum in CAD, followed by specialization over the next two years. This tuition is heavily oriented toward design and simulation.
Six classrooms are dedicated to the course and to learning; the school holds 120 CATIA V5 licenses from Dassault Systems. Haute Ecole Arc Ingénierie is indeed an official partner of this software producer and acts as a French language “CATIA call center” for Swiss industries. In addition to its educational activities, the school runs four research and development institutes and undertakes missions on behalf of companies in the region.
Students and teaching staff alike can use the CAD software on their own laptops too by connecting to a license server. Teaching currently takes place at three different geographical locations, but plans are in hand to group all three onto the Neuchâtel site in the near future.
Getting down to essentials more quickly
Raphaël Montavon is a teaching lecturer in specialist schools and is in charge of CAD at Haute Ecole Arc Ingénierie. Montavon explains why in 2002 the teaching staff decided to give its students access to a component library: “The CAD core curriculum supplies the basics of design, and our students naturally learn how to model parts starting from scratch. Once these concepts are mastered, we proceed to more advanced and more complex functions. It is important for them then to be able to concentrate on these. The use of component libraries therefore becomes a must because this speeds up the learning process considerably, avoiding needless modeling from scratch which adds no value. This enables us to go a step further in the teaching and practice of assemblies, simulations, or kinematics, for example. This method is, moreover, a truer reflection of the actual use of CAD in companies.”
TraceParts, without equivalent in the educational field
The choice to use TraceParts was made in 2002. “From a technical and educational point of view, it was the very good integration of their library with CATIA V5 that convinced us.” explains Montavon. “Furthermore, the TraceParts educational offering is original and well suited to the hard facts of the educational world. For example, it is vital for each student to have access to components on any machine or over the network from his or her personal computer without requiring an Internet connection.”
The TraceParts component library is one of the few libraries completely integrated with CATIA – not to mention with SolidWorks, Pro/ENGINEER, Solid Edge, Inventor, TopSolid, and Thinkdesign – that is available under an educational license. This comprises of a TraceParts DVD that can be installed on an unlimited number of teacher and student machines in a given teaching establishment. Haute Ecole Arc Ingénierie has centralized the library contents onto a server and set up a TraceParts client on each machine running CATIA V5. Everyone has access thereby to a unique library that is regularly updated.
The library is used autonomously by students: “They must search by themselves for the components needed for the assemblies,” confirms Montavon. “Over and above any time savings made in our teaching schedule, the sheer richness of the information linked with the TraceParts components allowed us to tackle certain data management aspects, in particular the printing of parts lists. Our objective, remember, is to reflect the reality of the process in an industrial context.”
Schools are increasingly subject to tempting proposals from software vendors attempting to make their product known to tomorrow's decision makers. That's fair enough, but their support must also be up to the task: “Our relations with TraceParts are excellent,” concludes Montavon. “We really do get the sensation of being considered an industrial customer: responsive technical support, anticipated updates when needed to accommodate our calendar constraints, etc. And I also believe our students, as well as our teaching staff undertaking research missions on behalf of the local industrial fabric, are just as demanding as a professional user.”