Preparing to Enter the Workforce With PCB Design Experience


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I spoke with Alex Burt, a computer engineering student at George Fox University, at a well-attended college career fair on the GFU campus in Newberg, Oregon. In the interview, Alex discusses his PCB classwork, challenges of design, and how it has impacted his internship experience as he prepares to enter the workforce upon graduation in the spring semester of 2019.

Nolan Johnson: Great to meet you, Alex. Can you tell me about the company you work for and what you studied in school?

Alex Burt: I currently work as a software intern at Summit Wireless in Beaverton, Oregon, and I am a computer engineering major at George Fox University. I'm graduating in the spring of 2019.

Johnson: Did you have the opportunity to go through the PCB process at George Fox as an undergraduate?

Burt: Yes.

Johnson: Tell us a little bit about that from the student's perspective. What was involved in that?

Burt: I was completely new to PCB design at the start. But through our electrical engineering class that Gary Spivey teaches at George Fox, we worked with Altium to understand how to create components on a PCB, create their footprints for a PCB, route these devices together, and create a full circuit not based on a breadboard.

Everything we had been doing in our electrical engineering classes had been based off a breadboard, and in one semester, we had two classes where we built two different PCBs. In one of the classes taught by Dr. Natzke, we built a custom amplifier, housed with speakers, which is something that wouldn't have been possible on a normal breadboard. But through designing the PCB, we reduced noise levels and made it compact enough for permanent deployment in an actual device.

Overall, I knew nothing about PCBs before these classes, but now I can say that I could design an entire circuit on a PCB and have it sent out to a manufacturer or use our in-house PCB lab at George Fox. We can print out solder paste or print traces with the Voltera machine. We also have a pick-and-place machine to place surface mount components, and then we put it in the solder oven. But if we don't do it in-house, then we would put fiducials on it and send it out that way too. All of our surface mount components have gone through the Voltera to put the solder mask layer on; we've placed all the components with the pick-and-place machine, put it in the oven, and these devices all work.

To read this entire interview, which appeared in the March 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

To learn more about George Fox University's Engineering program click here.

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