The 11 Moments of Autodesk University 2015

Autodesk University 2015 (AU) has come and gone, and it was one of the best I’ve attended.

On the first day of AU, Autodesk gave to me…. a beer…. in a tree

On the second day of AU, John gave to me. Two Media Events

On the third day of AU, Autodesk gave to me. Three Usability Studies

On the fourth day of AU, Autodesk gave to me. Four pounds of country fried steak

The fifth moment of AU, Autodesk gave to me. Five golden toques

At the Keynote at AU, Autodesk gave to me. Six Star Wars Stormtroopers!

Las Vegas

A bit different for me this year is that I flew into Vegas the Sunday night, giving me the full Monday to attend pre-conference events. That Sunday night, it was exactly the same temperature as what it was when I left Saskatoon (-3 Celcius). The difference is in Saskatoon everyone was in light jackets enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, where everyone in Vegas was in winter parkas, toques, scarfs, and face masks. It made me chuckle.

AU 2015 was held at the Venetian, which to me is the best hotel on the strip. It really is a grand hotel and I find the conference facility to be better laid out leading to much less walking than other AU locations. As with every AU, it blows me away how they are able to accommodate 12,000 people. The keynote is a bit of a disaster getting out after, but at meal time people are in and out, fed and watered, with hardly a wait. The meals provided for lunch and supper in the exhibit hall were exceptional, my hats off to the Venetian staff. The best meal though was at the conference ending party at the Hard Rock. The Chicken Fried Steak and Jalapeno Mac & Cheese was out of this world!


I also went jogging down the strip with 25-other brave people. Thanks to Shaan Hurley for organizing this and mapping out the route. I just started jogging a few months back and wasn’t prepared for all the stairs… it really did me in. So between the stairs, stopping to take pictures, and taking a wrong turn I came in dead last… but I made the full 3-miles!


Easily the best thing about Autodesk Univeristy is the networking. 12,000 people (“CAD Geeks” my wife refers to us as) in one location, there to talk about CAD, design, engineering, CAM, and life in general…. what could be better? And the mingling starts at 6:30 AM over breakfast and goes until the early hours at any of the many social events that occur in the evenings. [I also found a new favorite beer, Goose Island IPA!]

Goose Island Beer - baconfest 013

Goose Island beer – Baconfest 2013 by Anne Petersen

Do we only talk “shop“? No, but I’ve met so many interesting people over the years, learned lots, been inspired, laughed, and have made many great friends. The people I’ve met at AU (and stayed in contact) have helped me out of some jams over the years. In fact, this gig I have with D&M was a result of attending AU.

It can be overwhelming with the sheer number of people, especially for introverted type people, but if you put yourself out there, ask a couple simple questions, trust me you will learn a lot. This year I learned about building processing plants in Denmark, using Cray Supercomputers in the 80’s for FEA, and the state of Wyoming… there was a lot of deep Star Wars discussions, and I learned a lot about American Politics and the Health Care system in the UK… it was all fantastic!

Vault Customer Advisory Board

My preconference day was mostly spent with the Vault Customer Advisory Board (CAB). A select group of Vault users brought together by the Vault team to discuss Vault… the good, the bad, and the ugly! It’s a really small group only made smaller as only a few of us could make it to AU. However, even though the six of us were outnumbered by the Autodesk crew, we definitely let them know our opinions! I’d love to share what we discussed, but I’m under NDA (sorry).

I will share one of the activities we did, which I think I might start using at work. We were given $10,000 in play money, and a store in which we could buy features ($1000 each). The goal was to build a new solution for Vault, make a poster for it, and then “sell” it to our peers. As we were limited in the features we could buy it really made us focus on what was important and why it was important. What a great way to make us focus, plus making it a competition always helps! My team (team Canada, eh!) consisted of myself, Damien (Evans Console), and Mikel Martin (Autodesk). We did good, even though I had to step out momentarily for another meeting and bailed on the team’s presentation to the group (oops).

AU CAB Team Canada Eh

I’m really hoping this is the kickoff to achieving great things with the CAB throughout 2016. (Thanks Alan for the picture)


I’ve already written about the Keynote, but it was really good this year and even included Stormtroopers!

AU2015 Keynote Lynn Storm Troopers


The Autodesk Simulation team did a great job of scheduling a track specific about FEA with Nastran. Tracks at AU are a series of classes presented in order, revolving around a topic or software. They are great when you want to focus on something in particular as it takes the stress out of scheduling. You know you will learn a lot about the topic as they can break it down and focus on the specifics. This isn’t always easy in one 60-minute or 90-minute class.

Unfortunately, I was only able to make one session, IM10376 Let’s Get It Started, presented by Sualp Ozel. This was the kickoff to the Sim track. I attended this class not that I’m new to FEA but new to Nastran, and Sualp is a great presenter and teacher. I will definitely be checking out the other classes in this track when the material is posted to AU Online.


Autodesk has been talking about the “Internet of Things” (IoT) for the past few AU’s. This year was different as they have officially entered the IoT market with the acquisition of SeeControl. 2016 is going to see a ton of IoT from Autodesk, this is only the start.

Autodesk SeeControl

In a very Vegas fashion, I got to see SeeControl live-and-in-action while sitting on a stool, in a bar, drinking a beer, while at an Autodesk-sponsored social event. SeeControl is 100% cloud-based and works with a very extensive list of devices. What’s very cool about SeeControl is whenever someone adds a new device, it becomes available for everyone…. crowd sourcing at its finest. It all seems very promising, but I need to research a bit before I can really make an opinion.

What is the Internet of Things? I like how Jacob Morgan put it in Forbes 

So what is the Internet of things?

“Simply put this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices…that’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.”

Usability Studies / Answer Bar

I’ve done Usability Studies before, but this year they were exceptional. What are usability studies? An opportunity to sit with Autodesk 1-on-1 or in a small group and test new and / or technology and just talk out loud about what you like and what you don’t like. It’s great for Autodesk to get live feedback and its great for you as you get to see what’s planned and get your input into its direction. This year I attended two, one on Simulation and another on A360… again, sorry, can’t share as I signed an NDA.

I will admit that in the past for every time  I walked by an Answer Bar, I just kept on walking. I thought they were just for “newbies” and beginners and man I was wrong. After a bit of prodding I went and sat at the Manufacturing Answer Bar and was able to put the next version of Inventor through its paces. It went so well, and I was honestly having so much fun, that I was late for my next appointment. So, if you are ever at AU stop at each Answer Bar and demand they show you something new!

Behind the Music

It started from an idea (thank KRob!) to present stories from actual Vault users on their journey through implementation to usage of the product. So Chris Benner, Jim Amero, and myself presented to a room full of people, our journey to Vault. I felt bad as I got a bit excited and started rambling and cut into Jim’s time. But like the pro he his, Jim adapted and finished his portion right at the end of the class allotted time. I love presenting at AU, but this year was a bit strange as I only had one class and it didn’t involve any demoing! But the reviews were really positive, so I think it went well.

[Another AU testimonial, this is the second class Chris and I have co-presented together, and we met at AU a handful of years ago and stay in contact even between AUs.]

Exhibit Hall

For people in the manufacturing realm, they probably found the Exhibit Hall a bit underwhelming as I did. Sure seemed to be a lot more for AEC (Civil and Architecture). Not that there wasn’t a few cool things, but overall I give it one big meh.

What was cool? (A few of my favorites)

  • Frame was there (whom I’ve written about lately and have a few more planned for early 2016). They announced they have completed its Virtual Environment Certification for Autodesk applications, exciting news
  • Tetra4D which has some upcoming cool tech for PDF. You will see some posts from me about what they are doing in early 2016, if not sooner
  • Google’s Project Tangoa tablet that can real-time 3D scan, plus its a crazy game environment. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with this technology
  • KeyMouse – The keyboard and mouse reinvented (enough said!)

What was surprising? The lack of reseller presence isn’t really that surprising as its the way the industry is going. When I started attending AU five years ago it was the resellers who had the biggest booths and were throwing the biggest parties. Now, the only reseller booth I remember seeing was IMAGINiT’s. What has taken over the reseller presence is definitely the training providers. Ascent and Global eTraining had big booths and seemed to be swamped (busy) all the time.

What was shocking? The amount of large format plotters, and I mean LARGE devices. I thought we were in the paperless age?

What didn’t I like?

You’ve probably read this and are thinking “Mike, it can’t all be buttercups and rose petals?”. It wasn’t, even though it was probably the best AU I’ve attended.

Like every AU there is SO much going on and it is really hard to create your schedule. I check, and check, and double check the class list as I always get an overwhelming (anxious) feeling that I’ve picked the wrong class or missing something really important. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution, although I know I missed some great classes this year (like Paul’s Complex Topology and Class-A Surface Modeling with Inventor)

Autodesk employees seem to be dominating the delivery of classes… even though it is an Autodesk User conference. It would be better to have more users up in front of the classes. This is my biggest complaint.


Overall, great AU, I learned lots, talked to a lot of great people, and came back motivated.



Feature Image Can You See Us Below This Looks Like a Warp Speed Effect by Torley