Do you have enough familiarity with building that you can go beyond the “Tinkerbot”? Then you should certainly do design work prior to building a robot, especially this season were we all seem to have extra time on our hands! In my world (my company fabricates Wastwater Treatment and Air Pollution Control Equipment), nothing is built without drawings. Even an R&D project starts with at least some sketches. So if you’re interested in your long-term education (or earning the Design/Excellence Awards) follow the engineering process, which includes design. It doesn’t have to be CAD: I’m old enough to have used a drafting board and T-square, it just hast to be planned. Our company is transitioning from Inventor to SolidWorks because Inventor just doesn’t have the features that we need with regard to handling multibody solids (weldments) made from sheet metal parts. But that’s not to say that Inventor isn’t a good entry-level program to learn…it’s just not real popular in our industry. Fortunately, as a student, you have many options, and most of the leading CAD packages are available for free for students.
On VEX Team VIRUS, we recommend our elementary IQ students use SnapCAD as a basic introduction to CAD. Many (most?) 3rd grade kids just don’t have the concentration needed for more advanced CAD. However, I’m fully convinced that any enthusiastic middle-school student can learn to use even the high-end CAD systems like Solidworks and OnShape.
Here’s a document that has information and links to the various CAD software: CAD for VEX Robotics (2).pdf (300.8 KB) Although geared to VRC, the IQ parts are all available from vexrobotics.com and once you have opened a .step file in your chosen CAD package, they will be saved in the native format, and you will quickly build a library of parts. Since IQ uses nice round holes instead of the square VRC holes, the parts-libraries that have various mating features added are not so important in IQ.