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I recently spoke with PCEA’s Mike Creeden at DesignCon 2021. As PCEA closes in on its two-year anniversary, Mike provides an update on the organization’s growth and plans to continue connecting and educating PCB designers and design engineers.
Andy Shaughnessy: How’s it going, Mike? Nice to see you again. It’s been a while!
Mike Creeden: It’s going well. Good to see you.
Shaughnessy: It’s nice to travel again. And I understand Printed Circuit Engineering Association has been staying busy. What’s been going on with PCEA?
Creeden: PCEA is approaching its two-year anniversary at the end of this year, and we’ve been experiencing very good growth and participation. We have been making good contact with different affiliates across the industry, such as college education heads and different trade associations like IPC, SMTA, the SMCBA in Australia, and the FED in Europe, just to name a few. We’re out to be partners in the industry. Our trade association is geared toward individuals. Our membership is free and we’re here to basically promote collaboration with one another, some education, and hope people will walk away inspired. So, it’s really for anybody involved in printed circuit engineering.
Shaughnessy: I understand you’re expanding your membership in Europe. How is that going?
Creeden: We’ve noticed trends with some of our membership in Europe. We can pull up our members on Google maps, and you get a pin drop wherever someone signs up. We have formed some chapters in the EU. The first one we’re calling the EU chapter, but we have about 150 members across Europe. At some point, probably right up to the first of the year, we’ll subdivide that into a couple of country-centric chapters. We have a chapter now forming in Australia, two in Mexico, one in Canada, and now 14 across the United States. I see the new ones have formed in greater Ohio and in New England. Some other chapters have been around for a long time. They all continue to meet on a regular basis, but most of them are still virtual.
Shaughnessy: I see that you’ve got some classes going now as well. Tell us about them.
Creeden: I’ve been involved for a long time in teaching the CID and the CID+ classes, which are great curriculums that were geared toward taking existing designers and teaching them about standards and designing for manufacturability. We felt that they didn’t do as well at helping to create a PCB designer. With so many designers retiring now, this was the mission. Rick Hartley, Gary Ferrari, Susie Webb, Steph Chavez, and I have created this new curriculum. It’s a 400-page color annotated curriculum that includes a 40-hour, instructor-led review of the material. It’s all contemporary information, so it’s very useful for someone coming into the profession, trying to do their own layout. It is CAD tool-neutral.
Shaughnessy: That’s good.
Creeden: We want to make it available to everyone, as opposed to just leaning into one or two of the CAD tools. CAD tools are always changing, so there is always a new software update going. That’s how they move forward. We didn’t want to tag ourselves down into that. The principles we’re doing have a timeless nature to them.
Shaughnessy: There’s definitely a hunger for good PCB design training. That’s one of the things we’ve noticed when we were putting together our education issue.
Creeden: I get asked a lot, “What are the prerequisites to enter this training and what are the criteria?” We have actually left that question open because the material is geared toward anyone, from just a new apprentice entering the profession all the way up to someone who’s could be multi-years into the profession, because the constructs are basic. It goes all the way up to advanced signal integrity. Rick Hartley has written Chapter 7, which is the equivalent of a master’s degree in signal integrity. The book’s first six chapters have signal integrity applications, which, again, can be taught to the beginner, but also mastered by the advanced person.
Shaughnessy: That’s great, because there’s nowhere that I know of, at least no one single place or resource, where a beginner can start reading, take the class, and come out of it knowing how to design PCBs.
Creeden: The course was specifically geared to be professional, whether you’re someone just entering the profession or someone who has been serving in the profession for years. It’s meant to be A to Z, covering the placement, routing, components, and some of the CAD parameters that are applicable across all the platforms, along with manufacturability, signal integrity, EMI, and EMC. It’s a hybrid of all those perspectives.
Shaughnessy: That should gain some ground, especially when COVID is totally gone.
Creeden: I agree. I appreciate the opportunity to tell you a little bit about it. I’m excited. We have now done our third class and it’s really going over well. I’ve got five more scheduled before the year is out. So, as the word is starting to spread, the awareness is out there. There are a lot of different educational opportunities out there, and I encourage designers to pursue them all. I applaud anybody else doing this type of an effort.
Shaughnessy: Are these classes in-person or virtual?
Creeden: Both are available. Obviously, we’ve made a virtual portal where this can be done. At some point, we will be doing them live. In September, I will be going to New Mexico to conduct a live class. I’ll probably have a mask on the whole time and use a microphone.
Shaughnessy: That will be interesting.
Creeden: But the virtual ones have been going well, too. You know, class sizes have been about 15 and it seems to be a good number. We’ve had some classes that get up into the 20s and that’s fine.
Shaughnessy: Thanks for talking to me, Mike.
Creeden: My pleasure. I appreciate what you guys do at I-Connect007.