PTC Academic Summit: Teaching CAD and Advanced Manufacturing Courses

Written by: Delaney McDevitt

Read Time: 4 min

Boston University lecturer, Dr. Peter Zink, was among PTC Academic’s guest speakers at LiveWorx 2019. With many years of computer-aided design experience using different software, Dr. Zink addresses the benefits of using PTC software in his classroom and how he integrates the industry-leading software in his course curriculum.

Becoming a Champion of Students: Teaching CAD and Advanced Manufacturing Courses with PTC Software

At Boston University, Dr. Peter Zink believes in empowering engineering students in the classroom to, “go out and make things,” with an emphasis on active learning exercises and creative exploration.

How does he do this when the curriculum is constantly evolving to keep up with digital transformation trends? Dr. Zink leverages the technology of PTC Creo, which he integrates into the mechanical engineering courses for undergraduates at Boston University.

Computer-aided design (CAD) software in academe is often taught with the assumption that students will best learn from a primarily lecture-based structure. Course curriculum traditionally included CAD modeling, drawing, and assembly, that would incorporate some demos presented by the instructor. These demos lacked flow, efficiency, and long-term value. Teaching the information and skills in this way didn’t transfer to a space where students would be able to apply what they learned. Dr. Zink decided he needed a process that would be valuable to his students in the classroom and could be easily transferred to their careers. 

Out with the Old and in with the New

Dr. Zink recognized the value for his students in teaching an industry-leading tool because it would help them build confidence and design with intent, which is what companies look for in potential hires.

Teaching and preparing the future workforce for the actual industry setting is a hurdle in itself. Dr. Zink adopted a new teaching methodology, “putting the learning in the hands of the students through these active learning exercises.” In his search to find a solution that would be effective in his classroom, Dr. Zink drew from his challenges, experience, and feedback from his students, as well as his time teaching and using CAD software. With this, he created a three-step teaching model shown in the graphic below. When executed, this method “increases [student] interaction with more open-ended questions and a bigger focus on the broader picture from an engineering standpoint,” says Dr. Zink.


Shorter lectures, guided practice, and independent application all support Dr. Zink’s overall strategy—to keep course content and structure the same. The learning curve of transitioning to Creo meant that Dr. Zink would have to test the practices himself to really see the results. This is where he took the deep dive into Creo by practicing and rewriting course material to align with his mission to increase interactivity, make exercises more open-ended and investigative, as well as shift the challenge to engineering instead of software mechanics.

The Benefits

Deciding to integrate a new software in a curriculum that aligns with the vision of a university, while also corresponding with digital trends in a constantly evolving space is bold. The space of academe can be difficult if you aren’t willing to take the time, assess, test—and sometimes fail—at new practices. Dr. Peter Zink wove Creo into his curriculum with intent to put the student first to make positive disruption that would change “the pace of learning and length of lectures to equip students with guided and independent practices,” that would improve the overall experience, value, and results of his course. These results would then show positive results afterward with improvements in ratings and feedback from students.

Creo in Action in the Classroom

With the resources from PTC Academic, Dr. Zink was able to provide his students and engineering program at Boston University with a primer as a part of the PTC Academic university package to help learning and teaching Creo. The course work he developed to cater to Creo’s capabilities was created with the purpose to, “get students to understand and appreciate the connection between the work they do in engineering design and how it translates to the physical manufacturing processes,” says Dr. Zink. As the students’ progress through the program, assignments become more complex as they’re tasked with creating animations and mechanisms that they build from parts they download or model. Applying fundamental principles and practices in the classroom would then transfer to industry with familiarity and skilled practice that aligns with the curriculum and post-university values companies seek in potential candidates.

To learn more about how Boston University is using PTC software, read the case study here.

The PTC Academic campus package is offered to universities for a substantial discount and offers up to 500 seats per classroom—meaning there is potential for 500+ students in academe to take advantage of this industry-leading software. Want to bring Creo to your classroom? Click the link here to contact us today!
Tags: CAD Education Digital Transformation Industry 4.0

About the Author

Delaney McDevitt

Delaney McDevitt is the marketing copywriter for the PTC Academic Marketing team. In her role, she creates content that embodies the Academic team's mission to empower students and educators to succeed in the digital transformation era.

As a professional writer, she has experience in copywriting, editing, email marketing, content strategy, blogging, document design, and creative writing.