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At a job fair on campus at George Fox University, I sat down with Jake Whipple, a computer engineering senior, to discuss the GFU engineering program. This is one of the few engineering programs in the U.S. that gives students experience designing PCBs before they enter the work force.
Nolan Johnson: Can you start by giving me some background on yourself, where you're at in your education, and any work history?
Jake Whipple: Absolutely. I was raised in southern California and came to Oregon to study computer engineering at GFU. As I moved through the curriculum, I’ve been enjoying embedded system and PCB design lately. I had a tendency even in high school towards learning about technology. So, I selected computer engineering as my major knowing it would probably be the best fit.
At GFU, we immediately hopped into making an air engine, which was a very mechanical project. The next semester, we built a robot, which was cool. I thought, “This is what I want to stick with.” Fast forward a little bit, and it has been a very rigorous four years. I've learned a lot of life lessons, and it has been a crazy grind, but it's coming full circle at my senior year. Now, I’m looking into going into the industry. A big thing for me is I've been helping in the engineering labs a lot, and I get to work with a PCB machine. Last year, I had the microprocessors and embedded systems class. Now, I'm helping with that workflow for the next juniors that are going to be coming through that program.
I get to train some volunteers to help with PCB design. We have a Voltera machine that prints traces and their whole thing is that they don't want to wait for a manufacturing lead time. So, you get to make your own boards in-house. And it's not meant to be a final design, but it's meant to be something you can prototype on before you send it off to Sunstone or OSH Park, etc.
It’s all in-house. You can take substrate, pop it down, and I get to train other people. The juniors are going to get to come through and learn how that process goes. It’s giving me a real look at the industry. I've decided that I've learned a lot in school, but I'm looking forward to getting a job, so that's where I'm at right now.
Johnson: Have you interned at all yet?
Whipple: I worked this past summer with Dr. Harder and Dr. Stillinger at GFU. Dr. Harder is the dean, and Dr. Stillinger is an electrical engineering professor. We did a renewable energy project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and I was able to work from campus remotely. We were into a renewable outreach program to local farms, which was a big thing. The USDA had some grants that they were able to promote to these people, and as an intern, I was able to make phone calls and do some bookkeeping. I saw what that process looks like for companies that want to switch over to solar panels and renewable energy sources.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the March 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.