John Watson Wants You—to Sign Up for His PCB Design Class

Reading time ( words)

I impress upon the students the importance of this career. One of the things I tell the students the first night is, "What you are starting here is going to change the world.” I've seen these students develop some of the greatest innovations in electronics. They are a part of some of the greatest cutting-edge technologies out there, and it all began in this “lowly” class of students learning the basics. 

Shaughnessy: What if they’ve never used an EDA tool before? 

Watson: No problem. We teach how to use PCB design software. We teach on Altium, by the way, but I’m not teaching how to use Altium. Our focus is not on learning the tool. What you learn here will not change if you’re using Siemens, Cadence, or whatever tool you can name. The steps that are required in the PCB process will stay the same.

Altium has donated 25 Altium 365 licenses, and it’s the full-blown tool, not a student-level limited tool. Each student will have a license that’s good for one year after the class ends.

Shaughnessy: Always good to have a seat of software.

Watson: It is. So, we start with what I call the amazing world of PCB design, and the history of PCBs, where do they come from, things like that. I explain how to create a project, then we look at components and libraries. How are all those components created? What's in them? You know my love for libraries and components.

We look at finding components and placing them. We get into the actual schematic capture part of this, and then schematic connections, what connections we can use to make the connections between the components. This is followed by the schematic verification and pushing it into the PCB. And after the midterm, the second half of the course is PCB layout and creating your document packages. It’s very simple. Anyone can do this.

Shaughnessy: Who is the ideal student for this class?

Watson: If you’re a new hire at a company in this industry, this would be great for you. Or maybe you're a CAD librarian who wants to move into the layout area. Well, this is a great opportunity. There are no limitations on the age, by the way. I actually had a 17-year-old in my class who was still in high school. 

Shaughnessy: That’s great. I heard that you have some great guest speakers lined up. Who are some of the potential speakers?

Watson: Here are just a few who have said they’d be interested in speaking at this class: Rick Hartley, Tara Dunn, Stephen Chavez, Mike Creeden, and Paul Taubman. You never know who a guest speaker might be each night. What I'm trying to do here is get students face to face with the leaders in this industry.

I'm really focusing on working with companies. Because of COVID and everything else, companies have really been impacted by this with their workforce. They've had a lot of people retire, so they need to re-man their workforce. 

I’m actually teaming up with several companies, locally and remotely, to get them connected to the students after the class is over to provide their first opportunities to get into the industry and begin working as designers. If your company is interested in working with our students, let us know.

Shaughnessy: This sounds like a really good class. Thanks for doing this, John.

Watson: Thank you.  


  • To view the abstract describing John Watson’s class, DD 226 Printed Circuit Board Design I, click here.
  • To access John's syllabus for this class, click here.
  • To register for classes at Palomar College, click here.


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