Airplane GEEK

Aviation News from around the world

Member Benefits: SOLIDWORKS

EAA student member George Pytel, EAA 1396839, has been using SOLIDWORKS, a free CAD software program available to EAA members, to set himself up for success after high school in pursuit of a mechanical engineering career.

“The whole thing of SOLIDWORKS, it’s a huge boost to any upcoming engineer,” George said. “Kids are very good when it comes to imagining things. But when it comes to application, SOLIDWORKS is like how they could turn that imagination into application. And that’s kind of what this has done.”

member benefits solidworks Airplane GEEK Member Benefits: SOLIDWORKS
Courtesy of Shellie Pytel

George’s grandfather, a longtime EAA member himself, first introduced him to EAA.

“I think in the seventh grade, I went to the EAA Young Eagles Camp and that was cool to see and do,” George said. “Then, my grandpa told me that EAA gives a license, a hobbyist license for SOLIDWORKS. I actually never heard of SOLIDWORKS, but he then he got [me] a EAA membership, and I was able to use it.”

The first big project George did with SOLIDWORKS was designing a custom shifter to use while racing cars in video games. Since then, George has immersed himself even further into designing. With the help of SOLIDWORKS, George has gone on to earn the following:

  • 2nd Place in IDEA (Illinois Drawing Educator’s Association) State Competition.
  • 3rd Place in ACES (Academic Challenge for Engineering & Science) Regional Competition – Engineering Graphics Category.
  • 9th Place in SkillsUSA Illinois State Competition – Technical Drafting Category.

“Some of them [above competitions] were strictly [using] SOLIDWORKS,” George said. “Some of them were engineering principles that were used during SOLIDWORKS; that Skills USA one, the ninth-place one, that was a four-hour test and I was using SOLIDWORKS the entire time. It was very, very tough, because you were given a set of engineering drawings, different views of objects. And you had to create each one of them individually in a 3D model using a 3D software, like SOLIDWORKS, or Inventor, or AutoCAD. And I used SOLIDWORKS for that. And so, you had to create the 3D models, then recreate the engineering drawings through plotting them on virtual paper.”

“The ACES competition, which is the economic challenge, there are certain engineering things when it comes to understanding threads on screws, bolts, whatever,” George said. “SOLIDWORKS, they have a tool library of screws and bolts that you could play around with and you learn what certain things are; like the red pitch, the diameters. And they cover engineering principles. Another one was, they usually do one of these questions; ‘If you were to rotate an object in some way, how would it look?’ And that’s very good in SOLIDWORKS because you could just pan around a model and imagine … You don’t even need to imagine, because it does it for you. It’ll give you basically what this thing looks like in different views. When it comes to mechanical drawing, the alphabet of lines, there’s certain line weights, line types. It’s a difference between a dash and a solid line. Why one line is thicker than the other. And you can do all that with SOLIDWORKS. It’s very, very useful when it comes to creating an engineering drawing, and figuring out what line is what, or dimensioning something correctly. It’s just a real-world application that works really well to study for tests like that.”

George said it’s a bit of a learning curve starting out on SOLIDWORKS with no prior experience, but still very rewarding.

“What I like about SOLIDWORKS, I think it’s very easy to put something that you’re thinking about onto the software itself by starting with a drawing, and turning it into 3D,” George said. “Once you just start building things up, it’s really cool to see how the software will create something for you. One thing that works really well is the variety of 3D creations to turn sketches into a 3D model. I guess, the bad things about SOLIDWORKS, I think it’s a very steep learning curve that is not easy to pick up. It’s very good to see that I’m learning something new every time, but that’s just something that I didn’t know beforehand. I think there’s so many different ways to do something that SOLIDWORKS doesn’t really explain it very easily sometimes.”

member benefits solidworks 1 Airplane GEEK Member Benefits: SOLIDWORKS
Courtesy of Shellie Pytel

George said that having an EAA member benefit like SOLIDWORKS has been a great resource to him, as it has helped him decide on a career after high school.

“Since this is going to be the start of my junior year, we got some college visits and ideas of where to go,” George said. “I’ve been mainly thinking about pursuing a career in mechanical engineering. Through my own projects that I’ve created, I think it’s really cool to just hold something, or have something that you created from the ground up. It’s really cool to think of something that I made by myself using SOLIDWORKS, and it’s a tangible object. I’m fascinated with the idea of making something and seeing it in your own eyes. I don’t really know if that’s the best explanation for it, but SOLIDWORKS is just the way to do that, like a medium of some sort. So, it’s what I use to transfer my ideas to real life.”

SOLIDWORKS is the industry standard for CAD software used by aircraft and kit manufacturers from Cirrus to Zenith. EAA has received a generous offer from SOLIDWORKS to make a personal-use version of the software available to EAA members at no charge! To find out more, visit

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