Although FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) does not seem to endorse one particular CAD application, it appears that the SolidWorks application suite is the de facto standard.

Please note that SolidWorks is Windows 64-bit only. Please also note that SolidWorks is commercial software. You may download an evaluation license, but this demo only lasts 60 days. You must purchase a full version of SolidWorks after that. I am not employed by, or officially affiliated with, SolidWorks or FRC. I offer no guarantees or assurances. I am simply documenting my process as I try to figure out how to legally evaluate and purchase SolidWorks for FRC.

FRC offers guides on exporting robot models from SolidWorks as well as a Gazebo Exporter plugin for exporting robot models in a format suitable for Gazebo. Gazebo is the software used for the simulation environment. Gazebo is the simulated world where we can test our 3D robot models. SolidWorks is the software with which we build our models.

I have never used any CAD software, but I wanted to verify with FRC that the SolidWorks program is the best choice for students and whether or not other options exist. I emailed FRC using the email address provided on their support page, but I got no response. Oh well!

I did some detective work on my own to try and determine how to acquire SolidWorks, which typically retails for about USD $6,000. Apparently, purchasing the student/education version is far cheaper (though, perhaps limited). This is TBD. I have yet to purchase the software.

Purchasing An Education License

Download the Eligibity Form PDF from this page.

You will need to fill out the form and include a scan of your faculty or student id.

You can upload the form and your photo id to the next part of the process. That link is also listed in the Eligibility Form PDF.

As I am a mentor, I do not have a student or faculty id, and so I will need to coordinate with my school to proceed.

To be continued!

Acquiring A Trial Version

To download the 60 day community edition of SolidWorks, first fill out this form from SolidWorks. Here is a screenshot of the form.

user information form

After filling out the form, you should be redirected to a page that says…

Thank you for requesting a SOLIDWORKS Education Trial

The page will also reference an SDK-ID. Be sure to save this id somewhere!

Next, navigate to this other SolidWorks form. The form should say the following at the top of the page.

SOLIDWORKS Community Download Instructions

Fill out the form. Make sure you enter the SDK-ID you were shown previously. Also, be sure to select the most recent version of SolidWorks for download. The form is not entirely friendly. It asks for information that may not be applicable to you. For example, I am a mentor, and so I am neither and educator nor am I a student. Yet, I have to fill out my major and graduation date. 🤷

Fill out the form to the best of your ability. This is a screenshot of the form.

student or educator information form

After you have completed the form, click Request Download.

You will be redirected to a licensing page. Click Accept Agreement & Continue.

You should now be redirected to a page where you can download the SolidWorks installer.

You should then be able to save SolidWorksSetup.exe and run it on your Windows machine.

You should also have received an email by now with several serial numbers. It should look like this. Here is a screenshot of the email as I received it. I have redacted the serial numbers from my email.

serial number email

For our sake, we will take note of the serial number listed under Your SOLIDWORKS Educator(CAD Premium) 60-Day Trial Serial Number is:.

The SolidWorks software is pretty large. Make sure you have time and a fast Internet connection.

Run SetupSolidWorks.exe. A number of files will be extracted to your computer.

When prompted choose to install as an Individual (on this computer) installation type.

installation prompt

Enter your SOLIDWORKS Educator(CAD Premium) 60-Day Trial Serial Number in the first box, and follow the prompts.

serial number prompt

Congrats, you now have an evaluation installation suitable for 3D robot modeling!