This morning the general session featured more excellent speakers. Dr. Don Norman of Northwestern University won the Franklin Medal in 2006 (past award winners include Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Stephan Hawking) and he's quite famous in design circles (just Google him and you'll get a ton of hits). He gave some great examples of why design needs to be for the user and not for the designer. Pick up one of his books to learn about his philosophy in depth as I can't really do it justice :).
Dr. Robert Ballard is most famous for finding the HMS Titanic, but he is one of the world's foremost oceanographers; if you've seen many Discovery and Science Channel shows related to undersea exploration, you will recognize him instantly (he was also the guy who did the "real science" segment at the end of every episode of the old Seaquest: DSV sci-fi TV show). What I took most from his talk was that by 8th grade, you've either got a new scientist/enginner or you've lost them. Both of my brothers are classically-trained teachers and I have heard the same thing from them many times -- middle school is where personality and behaviors are set in. I resolved during this talk to take a more active role in somehow reaching out to kids in that age group, both as a professional in the engineering world and also as an amateur scientist (astronomer, in this case) to spark real interest in the science and engineering. I have a few ideas but I'd love to hear about any you may have!
One tool that SolidWorks Corporation has developed that I think will be useful is SolidWorks for iPod. No, it's not a software solution; it's a website that has cool videos, renderings, and technical tidbits that are made for the iPod. SolidWorks thinks this is such a great idea that they gave every regular attendee of SolidWorks World an iPod Nano loaded with this content! See www.solidworks.com/ipod to get content for your own iPod.