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Design007-Feb2021

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FEBRUARY 2021 I DESIGN007 MAGAZINE 53 Figure It Out: Closing the Gap Between College and Industry with PCEA by Dugan Karnazes VELOCITY RESEARCH A few months back, I had the opportunity to meet Mike Creeden at the 2020 Altium Live conference. For those who don't know, Mike ran San Diego PCB, a well-regarded PCB design company and is now the technical education director at Insulectro. As someone growing a design company of my own, I knew It would be foolish to miss an opportunity to pick his brain. Between comparing notes and getting to know each other a bit, it was immediately clear to me that Mike was incredibly passionate about education and the PCB industry. He had also encountered and solved many of the business issues I had been running into (but more on that another time). It's been my (and my intern's) experience that PCB design education is notably lacking from college EE curriculums. Even basic under- standing of how to design a PCB and the man- ufacturing, routing techniques, and test pro- cesses involved are completely unaddressed. When I was in school, the first PCB we designed was down- right cringe-worthy. We used the free version of Eagle with a former instructor's librar- ies, and then we were asked to keep rearranging compo- nents on the board until the autorouter could solve every- thing on a two-layer board. The board was made without solder mask or silkscreen. No concepts of return paths, power distribution, decou- pling, shielding, manufactur- ing, or principles beyond the bare minimum of electrical conductivity were covered in the class. This was a college level course I'm still making payments on. This may have been passable before engi- neers were expected to know how to design circuit boards, but that's not the case today. I'm a big fan of Eli Hughes's term "full stack hard- ware engineer," because it really does cap- ture the expectations for what we're required to know today. The full stack engineer under- stands everything from idea to manufacturing; the PCB is a major part of that process. It's also clear to me that trying to cram it all into a four-year degree is probably not possi- ble. Our outstanding intern Austin Gilbert also shares this sentiment. So much of what we do here at Velocity Research is not even men- tioned in the classes at his university. Colleges still depend on the industry to cover this mate- rial, but many companies keep their techniques confidential. DESIGN007 To read this entire column, which appeared in the Design007 Week Newsletter, click here. Figure 1: Velocity intern Austin Gilbert working on a project.

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