Day two at SolidWorks World, the worldwide event for SolidWorks users, drew a record crowd. And this time it wasn’t because of the sunny Southern California weather. It was because the special guest speaker happened to be James Cameron, who just this morning was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture Academy Awards for “Avatar.”

You may be thinking, “What could a movie director have to say that would be valuable to design engineers?” Cameron answered that question immediately. A former machinist, NASA Advisory Council member, and technology expert, Cameron knows a lot about designing products, including helping NASA design a camera system for an upcoming Mars exploration mission. He has also engineered a number of deep-ocean expeditions that involved state-of-the-art camera technologies.

With these projects, Cameron said he has tried to evolve himself outside the “platform of Hollywood and that closed-loop and self-referential reality bubble of Hollywood, and immerse myself in the NASA culture, the institutional scientific culture, and the oceanographic community.”

Among Cameron’s pieces of advice to design engineers was to be environmentally conscious. “The overall trend of the design business is to make whatever device you’re making operate more efficiently,” he said. “Inefficiency has held us in generating a continuously sustainable civilization. People need to be inspired to go into the alternative energy sector and other areas where we can make a difference by making products or vehicles that are going to make our civilization better. “