interior dining room living.jpg

Preparing secondary students for college and careers: Autodesk Certification

We live in a very dynamic world. Students enrolled in school now will be facing challenges in the future that are unknown to us today.  Preparing the next generation of CADD industry professionals requires students to develop technical knowledge and skills as well as the 21st century skills of critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. Proficiency in newer technologies such as 3D printing, 3D laser scanning and the Cloud is also essential.  

How is that all possible?  As a teacher at Sun Valley High School in Monroe, North Carolina, I have been fortunate to have very dedicated and insightful leadership from the Career & Technical Education Department Head, the school administrators, and the CTE Director.  Teaching our students industry-based design skills and providing them the opportunity to benchmark their knowledge and skills through certification demonstrates our commitment to CTE career and college readiness standards.

cert student.jpg
Autodesk certification benefits for students.
cert institution.jpg
Autodesk certification benefits for institutions.

Our students achieve amazing levels of accomplishment and they have produced some extraordinary work. This is the result of each student’s effort and teaching CADD industry design practices that focus on adaptation to the environment, energy and climate change. I anchor my curriculum on the following topics that support designing for change:

  • Building Information Modeling (BIM)
  • Leadership in Environmental & Energy Design (LEED)
  • Virtual Design & Construction
  • Integrated Project Delivery and Collaboration.

My approach to these practices is influenced by my experience in the CADD industry.  I kick off my course with foundational lessons in collaboration.  I encourage each student to understand and establish their own Autodesk 360 cloud account. It is important for them to understand the value of cloud-based collaboration and managing their design assets so they know how to have their most current projects available anytime, anywhere.

With LEED, we try to cover the basics and as many of the specific design criteria as we can. My personal approach is to eliminate the stress of this module by not associating a test with it. Instead, I identify a selection of activities covering LEED essentials to confirm and solidify student knowledge and skills. 

House top view SVHS Drafting 2.jpg

House top view created by a student​.

cad elevation - modified.jpg

CAD drawing elevation created by a student.

BIM is a little different. It is one of my personal favorites and is very important.  I have a Certificate of Management in BIM and spend as much time on this important subject as I can. If you are new to BIM, Autodesk Design Academy has several courses and projects that offer a great introduction to teachers looking to develop knowledge in these practices.

How you introduce these practices is important as the topics are wide and deep in detail. My approach is to ensure we don’t just spend days at a time working away on one project, hoping for good results. Instead, I create daily focused mini lessons for students to work through that cover very specific topics such as doors, windows, wall types, rendering adjustments, material properties, etc. I also find it helpful to students to create mini lessons for more complex topics such as lighting and stairs.  The mini lesson approach helps students recognize a daily achievement and fosters motivation.  It also provides me with a daily snapshot of each student’s progress and performance.

3D View 7 Devin H 6-3-2015.jpg
Interior design visualization rendering created by a student.


Living Room Render Angel Q-V 8June2015.jpg

Interior rendering created by a Sun Valley student using Revit​.

Preparing students for college and careers goes beyond teaching the basics of software skills training, and requires workflow instruction, demonstration, and application of other technologies such as 3D printing and 3D laser scanning for prototype generation.  My approach is to provide students with background information on the technology and discuss the theory of why the technology is important and how it is used in industry. Most often, I do a demonstration showcasing ways to apply the technology to a task. After the lecture and demonstration, students practice their skills on an assignment, drawing, or project that involves that task or function. 

We emphasize the importance of offering industry certification to our students. Autodesk software is free for schools and students.  Union County Public Schools provides the opportunity for students to take the user level certification exam at no cost. As an industry veteran, I know that industry certification gives students a much needed head start over the competition.  The Autodesk Certified User exam benchmarks a student’s knowledge and skills in Autodesk software, confirming college and career readiness. Exam preparation is simple with the software skills how-to videos available on Design Academy.

It’s a great feeling to see a student who has achieved a level of accomplishment beyond their own expectation, producing work they are proud of, and knowing they are well prepared for a career they can enjoy.


Learn more about Autodesk certification here.