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Altair Connects Kids to Engineering and Design During Remote Learning

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, compared to other occupations growing at 9.8%. This is one of the reasons parents are increasingly introducing STEM-based activities to their children at an early age. These real-life applications provide children with an opportunity to learn the basic concepts of STEM fields in a fun and interactive way, forging the path for their future and allowing their interest to grow.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has affected all aspects of life including children’s access to the classroom. As adults adapt to working from home, children around the world have also been learning remotely which limits or entirely prevents hands-on STEM activities in classrooms, clubs, or competitions.

This is where Altair Inspire™ can help. Inspire gives children as young as 12 access to explore the parametric modeling tool PolyNURBS to create beautiful 3D models with an easy-to-use interface. This is an ideal introduction to 3D modeling for children as they learn the foundations of product design using a simplified version of the powerful software used by professional design engineers. What kid doesn’t want to build a realistic 3D model of an airplane, balsa wood bridge, or bird?

Adam, 13, using Inspire to create an airplane for 3D printing
The 3D model of the airplane
The finished product. The wings and body were printed separately and glued together.
Nathan, 15, used Inspire to design a balsa wood bridge before building it.
Nathan also created a realistically rendered bird to represent ideas from “To Kill a Mockingbird” for a school project.

Of course, this tool isn’t limited to just children. James Dagg, Altair chief technical officer, also tried his hand at creating something using the intuitive tool and came up with this flying pig. Indeed, the last year has taught us to expect the unexpected…

The “aeropig” created by a 50-something-year-old.

Now, we’ve seen some examples of what PolyNURBS can be used to produce, but what actually is it and why use it? PolyNURBS is a modeling method that allows you to quickly create free-form solid geometry that is smooth and continuous. Optimized shapes obtained in Inspire can only be exported in STL format to other CAD software. STL geometry is represented as triangulated polymeshes, which are great for concept design and 3D printing, but not directly compatible with subsequent CAD tools or manufacturing.

NURBS are preferred in these use cases because they more accurately and efficiently represent curved geometry. However, converting third order meshes to NURBS is often very time-consuming. The PolyNURBS modeling method allows you to easily trace over optimized results to create smoother NURBS versions of the STL geometry. The resulting model can be exported to other CAD systems and is readily usable for manufacturing.

One tool in the Inspire product range is Inspire Studio™, used by designers, architects, and digital artists to create, evaluate, and visualize designs faster than ever before. With unrivalled flexibility and precision, its unique construction history feature combined with multiple modeling techniques empowers users throughout the creative process. With a number of other unique features, this amounts to some pretty impressive results. Offering an intuitive setup and large choice of environments and materials, Inspire Studio’s rendering engine creates stunning images and complex animations in real time with physically accurate lighting.

Inspire Studio’s rendering engine at work.

With the world dealing with limited access to just about everything, we’ve all had to adapt to going about our daily lives and the same is true for children. At Altair, we don’t want this limitation to get in the way of a child’s education and with Altair Inspire, children from 12 years old can keep learning, maintaining their interest in STEM, and educating the next generation of designers, architects, and digital artists.

To learn more about Altair Inspire click here.