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Penn College prof is the ‘CAD Whisperer’


In 22 years of teaching at Pennsylvania College of Technology, J.D. Mather has accumulated many titles. Assistant professor of engineering design technology. Master Teacher. Autodesk Inventor Certified Expert. Certified SolidWorks Professional.

And now … “CAD Whisperer.”

Like the other labels, “CAD Whisperer” reflects Mather’s expertise. But it promises to eclipse the other titles because it’s shared with the widest audience.

Mather has created a YouTube Channel, dubbed the “The CAD Whisperer,” to impart his vast knowledge in computer-aided design and engineering. The channel’s 120-plus videos are a hit with current students and an audience that extends far beyond his classroom.

J.D. Mather“I pick out problems that illustrate the concepts that I want to cover and that the students seem to get the most out of,” Mather said. “The audience I create content for is Penn College students, but anyone else is welcome to come along for the ride.”

Many have. The channel is collecting about 130 additional subscribers and 500 hours of viewing per month. One video – focusing on the frame generator and weldment tools in Autodesk Inventor – has over 16,000 views.

The majority of videos offer tutorials on advanced techniques – such as motion analysis and dynamic simulation – used in prominent CAD software programs Autodesk Inventor Professional, Autodesk Fusion 360 and SolidWorks.

“To me, engineering design is like working out a crossword puzzle, except with geometry in 3D rather than words,” Mather said. “I get to play with 3D geometry puzzles all day.”

He launched the channel in June 2019 to serve as an educational supplement for engineering design technology students. YouTube provided the avenue for him to offer interesting problems that he’s encountered in industry, the classroom and years as a leading contributor to online CAD forums and discussion boards.

His approach changed last March when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the college to remote instruction for the remainder of the spring semester. The channel that was home to Mather’s monthly design challenges became his primary medium to reproduce and share lectures.  The college returned to in-person classes in the fall, but Mather continues to use the channel as a repository of lectures because students occasionally have to quarantine.

“I’m just trying to stay one step ahead,” Mather said. “I’ve had to give up on slick production qualities. Circumstances have forced me to just do the best I can and move on to the next one.”

A new video is added to the channel every couple days. Most are 10-20 minutes long, and some are linked together to form one- to two-hour presentations. All the videos consist of Mather’s narration, describing in real time the techniques shown on his computer screen.

Mather's tutorial on Autodesk Inventor's frame generator and weldment tools has attracted more than 16,000 views since November 2019.
Mather’s tutorial on Autodesk Inventor’s frame generator and weldment tools has attracted more than 16,000 views since November 2019.

“The reaction has been universally positive,” Mather said. “One person commented that I saved their life. I think that might have been a bit of exaggeration.”

“I was not surprised when I learned that J.D. had created a YouTube channel,” said Craig A. Miller, instructor and department head of engineering and industrial design technology. “J.D. is obsessed with incorporating the latest technology, techniques and software in the classes he teaches. He wants to make sure that our students are second to none when it comes to engineering and design skills. His YouTube channel seems like the natural next step to reaching and educating students online.”

Mather holds an associate degree from John Tyler Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech, and master’s and doctoral degrees from East Tennessee State University. In 2017, he received the Veronica M. Muzic Master Teacher Award, the highest honor accorded a Penn College faculty member.

Approaching retirement, Mather hopes the channel’s content will be a resource for other faculty.

“Since I never found the time to write books to cover my class topics, the YouTube channel will serve as my never-written book in electronic form,” he said. “I recognize that online video in many ways is an ideal supplement or even replacement to print media.”

Especially when it’s delivered by the “CAD Whisperer.”

Penn College offers bachelor’s degrees in engineering design technology and industrial design and an associate degree in engineering CAD technology.

For information about those and other majors from the college’s School of Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education. Email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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