When Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) in southeast Florida pivoted to remote learning in 2020, the district handed out more than 100,000 laptops to help students continue their education online. The laptops were enough for students to join virtual classes, but they presented an extra challenge for the Career, Technical, Adult, and Community Education (CTACE) department.
CTACE’s key program—Career Technical Education (CTE)—provides hands-on learning opportunities for careers in engineering, manufacturing, architecture, construction, and more. Across 21 high schools, 3,500-plus students take courses as part of the engineering career pathway. CTACE needed to figure out how to get sophisticated CAD software working on these students’ lower-powered laptops, but many of the software options could not function well—except for Autodesk Fusion 360® software.
BCPS had been working with Autodesk throughout the years to create a standardized curriculum that integrated Fusion 360 into the district’s CTE programs. The pandemic accelerated that integration. Fusion 360 runs in the cloud, so anyone can access the full functionality of the software from any browser on any device—no download or high-powered hardware needed.
CTE didn’t miss a beat with instruction. Together with Autodesk, BCPS created and rolled out a supplemental curriculum that focuses exclusively on Fusion 360. Now, students gain experience and get a head start using professional-level tools, even before they jump into their careers. The curriculum also helps students begin earning their Autodesk certifications.
BCPS and Autodesk then doubled down on their commitment by hosting a first-of-its-kind online engineering design competition across all district schools. Partnering with Limbitless Solutions—a company that makes prosthetic arms for children and adults—they asked student teams to create 3D-printed stands that could store, showcase, and recharge bionic arms. All 16 teams used Fusion 360 to create their designs. The winning three-person team—Jag 2 from Coral Glades High School—wowed the judges with a modular 3D-printable design. The competition was such a success that organizers are looking to make it an annual event.
“The partnership between Autodesk and BCPS has been a fantastic experience for the students and instructors in the Engineering Pathways program offered at 21 BCPS high schools,” says James Payne, curriculum supervisor, Broward County Public Schools. “By helping students prepare for Autodesk Fusion 360 industry certification and providing real-world engineering experiences through hands-on projects, Autodesk is setting up our students for success in their future careers.”
When the district’s students went back to in-person school, Fusion 360 went back with them. Today, Autodesk Fusion 360 is taught and used in more than 90% of the high school engineering programs, as well as many of the district’s robotics and aerospace programs. Instructors are now looking into the CAM capabilities of Fusion 360 for their classes, and the district has bought computer numerical control (CNC) machines for its manufacturing programs, which will all rely on Fusion 360. Most importantly, the students are excited and engaged as they learn essential skills that propel them into Industry 4.0 careers.