Founded in 1982 with the launch of their flagship AutoCAD software, San Rafael’s Autodesk, Inc. has historically lead the way in the development of digital design technology. Today, Autodesk products serve all sectors of the professional 3D design market, from engineering, to architecture, to entertainment, as well as an increasing number of consumer-level and mobile applications.

Like many developers of professional software tools, Autodesk has long maintained a reduced-cost educational licensing program for qualified students and faculty. Unlike many other developers, however, Autodesk has traditionally offered student licenses that are entirely free and, as recently as 2011, has extended its free licensing program to the unemployed. For eligible participants, the Autodesk Assistance Program (which ran from April 2009 through January 2011) provided free student licenses on over 25 Autodesk products, free ’round-the-clock online training, and access to heavily discounted classroom training, certification exams, and commercial software licenses.

In one fundamental sense, education is ultimately about the economy—about producing useful, skilled workers. For many professional jobs in engineering, construction, manufacturing, and other vital industries, having up-to-date skills in the Autodesk programs that dominate design workflows can mean the difference between getting a job and not. For recognizing that, and for doing their part to keep their user base educated and employed, we’re proud to welcome Autodesk to the running for the 2012 Makey Awards.