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Catching Up With: Kirby Downey and Jonny Harrison Part 2

Catching Up With Kirby Downey and Jonny Harrison

This year, 3DEXPERIENCE World was hosted as a virtual event. While we were not able to be physically together for the week-long event, the technical content was great, and we did get to see some familiar faces during some of the general sessions and break out rooms.

In the true essence of community, there were two creative and industrious SOLIDWORKS User Group Leaders that hosted a platform for folks to share, connect and network during the week.

We recently had a chance to sit down and have a catch up with Kirby Downey and Jonny Harrison to talk about The CORE Podcast, Hallway Hangouts …and eating really spicy chicken wings whilst CAD modelling!

If you missed it, you can catch Part One here.

In Part Two we will be talking about their involvement in the Magic Wheelchair, upcoming SWUG events and the future of SWUG!

How did you get involved with the Magic Wheelchair?

KD – It all happened at SOLIDWORKS World 2019 in Dallas, Texas. We met Chin Loo Lama and Luke Daley during the event.

Luke had already been speaking to Chin Loo about bringing a bunch of makers to the event to meet and work on a Magic Wheelchair.

The concept of Magic Wheelchair came from its founder, Ryan Weimer who started the organization after creating a Halloween costume for his son (who wanted to be a pirate) and built a pirate ship around his wheelchair.

Things got a bit quiet after the event but about 6 months before 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020, Chin Loo got in touch to say, ‘we are doing this!’

There were going to be 2 chairs created – one with a Beauty and the Beast theme and one that was destined to have a Star Wars theme (as our team was made up of Star Wars fans!)

KD/JH – We wanted to build something for a child that was a fan of Star Wars. The Mandalorian gave inspiration to the concept of building a ‘speeder’. Members of the team took their leads in CAD design, printing, painting – all areas were being covered.

All of the building was done in North America ahead of the event and we just had a few details and last-minute things do while on-site in Nashville.

We had a few boxes that got lost on their way to Nashville – this is when you truly can marvel in the power of our community.

We reached out to one of the exhibiting partners, Xometry, and they were able to help us to get some parts printed overnight.

The Fab Lab provided great support too – they were able to get some woodcuts for us.

The community really came through to help us meet our build deadlines.

The young man, Jacob, that received the ‘speeder’ chair was a bit nervous, so we revealed the Beauty and the Beast chair first.

Once he saw the process, he was super excited and much more comfortable.

After revealing the chair, we pushed him around for a bit and then – he took off! This wheelchair was built for off-road and he can now go on off-road adventures with his family.

During the week of 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021, it was great to have members of the Magic Wheelchair pay a visit to the podcast.

We had emailed them to ask them to join us – they showed up and it was like putting the band back together!

Kirby, when can we expect the next meeting of the London SWUG?

There are currently no upcoming London SWUG meetings. The last meeting was held in June.

We have started to upload recordings of previous London SWUG meetings and once completed they can be found on the London SWUG YouTube Channel – make sure to check them out!

Jonny, your new group – the North East England SWUG – when can we expect your first meeting?

We are hoping to launch our first meeting of the North East England SWUG on 5th October – stay tuned for details!

In this meeting, we will have the awesome Brad Meador of Altec Inc who make some awesome equipment!

You can find out more and sign up to join on the Meet Up platform.

Let’s chat for a moment about the pandemic – how has this impacted user groups in the UK?

KD – For our meetings, the biggest challenges for us in the past have been finding interesting presentations.

With virtual meetings, it’s allowed us to have access to more options.

We have better access to folks in North America and other parts of the world and makes working with them to present much easier.

When we can host physical meetings, I’ll want to make sure there is decent internet coverage so we can continue to host people virtually and continue to welcome presenters from around the world.

While I know in-person meetings are great for things like pizza, beer, goodies and networking – a virtual meeting would allow people that cannot make a meeting to still participate.

There is also a 3rd area that I would like to look into – and that’s just a streaming video on YouTube. While you would lose any interaction you would have in person or in a virtual meeting platform, someone could still watch and learn from the presenters and perhaps post questions into a chat option.

How important is it to get students involved in the SOLIDWORKS User Groups?

KD – In my opinion, anytime you can put students together with professionals, it’s a great opportunity.  There’s always room to grow in this area, you just have to keep inviting students to meetings.

JH – Agree 100% – as I am only a few years out of school, I’ve got contacts at my university that use SOLIDWORKS and promote certifications.

We’ve been in touch with one of my old lecturers and I am hoping to leverage that relationship to host meetings on campus for those interested to join.

Once some of the students progress onto jobs, the user group base will continue to grow.

It was a pleasure speaking with Kirby and Jonny to learn about the CORE podcast, their upcoming SWUGN events and the Magic Wheelchair. We look forward to seeing what they get up to next!

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