Better to Light a Candle: Chapter One

Christopher T. Middlebrook
Christopher T. Middlebrook

Michigan Tech’s new course in printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturing is the topic of a series of columns in I-Connect 007. The first column “Better to Light a Candle” Chapter One—Prepping the Next Generation,” by Marc Carter, features an interview with Christopher Middlebrook (ECE).

Better to Light a Candle: Chapter One—Prepping the Next Generation

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of columns on a new university course in PCB manufacturing at Michigan Technological University. Marc will chronicle the progress of this class, interview the guest lecturers, introduce the students, etc.

There has been a considerable amount of (electronic) ink and words shared in our industry bemoaning the graying-out of our industry and the growing shortage of skilled people at all levels. (See the May 2017 PCB007 Magazine column “Help Wanted—and How!” for just one example). As is usually the case, though, when all is said and done, more has been said than done.

That is why it was so refreshing to learn of someone who has decided to do something about it. Enter Dr. Christopher Middlebrook, a professor at Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton, Michigan. On January 14, 2019, he will open the first session of “EE4800: Printed Circuit Board Fabrication”—a hands-on engineering class intended to give undergraduate students an introduction to the basics of printed circuit design, fabrication, and assembly.

Read more at I-Connect 007, by Marc Carter.

In subsequent columns, Carter will chronicle the progress of the class, interview guest lecturers and talk to students. In addition to photos of Michigan Tech’s equipment suite for the new course, Carter interviewed instructor Chris Middlebrook (ECE). In the interview section of the column, Middlebrook tells Carter he is amazed by the response and guidance from industry in launching the new course.

I-Connect007 is a extensive global source for news and original content serving the printed circuit design, fabrication and assembly/EMS market.

Altium Sponsors Use of Software for PCB Design Class

Michigan Tech has entered into an agreement with Altium for the use of software in a classroom setting. The 12-month arrangement allows the University the use of Altium Designer software used to design printed circuit boards (PCBs).

The software will be primarily used in EE4800, Printed Circuit Board Fabrication, taught by Christopher Middlebrook (ECE). The agreement includes 20 licenses to the latest version of the Altium Designer software, as well as free updates and upgrades.

Middlebrook says he is pleased with the agreement, valued at $116,850. “Using Altium will allow students to have first-hand experience and exposure with a globally recognized software design package,” he said.

EE4800 is a hands-on undergraduate engineering class that teaches students the basics of printed circuit design, fabrication and assembly. This is a new course with its first offering in Spring of 2019. The class is the subject of what is expected to be a series of columns in I-Connect007.

Altium is a multinational software corporation headquartered in San Diego that focuses on electronics design systems for 3D PCB design and embedded system development.

By Electrical and Computer Engineering.


Boy Scouts Learn to Solder Heart Rate Monitors

BMS Tyler Arthur
Blue Marble Security member Tyler Arthur is showing the Boy Scouts a soldering demonstration

Blue Marble Security Enterprise assisted the local Boy Scouts on Tuesday November 27th, 2018,  as they participated in a heart rate monitor soldering event. The event is used to teach the basics of electrical engineering components in an interactive and effective manner. The heart rate monitor, once soldered with correct connections, will cause the LEDs to light and with the use of the sensor the LEDs will blink with the operator’s heart rate. Around seventeen boy scouts ranging in the middle school age participated in the event with seven Blue Marble Security members as well as their advisor who monitored and assisted in the lab.

The focus of the heart rate monitor lab is to introduce the basic concepts of electric engineering to those with little experience. Some of the concepts learned are how the color bands on resistors correspond to the resistor’s value, the polarity of diodes, and why it is important to place them correctly. However, the focus of the lab was to make effective through hole soldering connections. Scouts who were unsure about the process got a quick demo from an Outreach team member. All the members got portions of their boards populated with components within the time limit, with a few getting the boards completed and tested. All the boy scouts will get to take a heart rate monitor board home after the Outreach members troubleshoot and finish up some of the boards. The boy scouts had a wonderful time, and learned a new valuable skill.

BMS with Boy Scouts
Michael, John, and Shawn BMS members answering various questions the scouts have.
BMS Soldering Lab
Overview of the lab with the scouts working on their heart rate monitor soldering boards.

Society of Women Engineers Learn to Solder Heart Rate Monitors

Heart Monitor Device
The completed heart rate monitor board SWE members took as a souvenir.

On Friday November 9th, 2018 Blue Marble Security hosted a heart rate monitor soldering lab for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). The heart rate monitor, once fully soldered with correct connections, would allow the LEDs around the edge to blink with the operator’s heart rate. Sixteen SWE members were present along with six Blue Marble Security members to monitor and assist in the lab.

SWE Students Lab
Students working on the heart rate monitor boards with BMS members supervising.

The focus of the heart rate monitor lab is to introduce basic concepts of electrical engineering to those with little or no knowledge. The SWE members specifically learned how the color bands on resistors correspond to the resistor’s value, as well as the polarity of a diode and why it is present. The main focus of the lab was to teach the SWE members to through hole solder appropriately so that there would be strong connections on the board for current to flow. All of the SWE members completed the lab within the time allowed. Each took a heart rate monitor board as a souvenir to remember their new skill.


ITC Supports Renovation of ECE Learning Center

Jon E. Jipping
Jon E. Jipping
ITC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Michigan Tech has received a $75,000 gift from ITC Holdings Corp. to support the renovation of the ECE Learning Center in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The renovated space will provide a clean, well-equipped place for undergraduate students in electrical engineering and computer engineering to study together and participate in peer mentoring with learning center coaches.

The ECE Learning Center is housed in 123 EERC, a room of 560 sq. ft. adjacent to the ECE department office and near two large lecture halls. It is used for student collaboration, peer mentoring and as a place for students to work on homework and socialize between classes and in the evenings.

The proposed renovation will bring the room up to modern technological standards as a collaborative and mentoring workspace. There will be an overall facelift with new carpeting, painting and glass whiteboards, and the space will be redesigned around sets of tables and chairs with pods that allow students to connect laptop computers to one of three 65’’ wall-mounted monitors. It is anticipated that the enhanced functionality and attractiveness of the space will lead to increased utilization and a greater sense of community among ECE students.

ECE Department Chair Dan Fuhrmann says, “I am delighted and grateful to ITC for their generosity. The Department has needed to upgrade this resource for our students for quite some time. It’s nice that students have a place to hang out and work, so close to their classrooms, but now they will have a brighter, cleaner space that is more inviting and more conducive to collaborative learning. I’m sure more students will take advantage of it once they learn what we have done.”

ITC, an electrical power transmission utility headquartered in Novi, Michigan, has had a long and positive relationship with the ECE department and the Michigan Tech College of Engineering. ITC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Jon Jipping, who was instrumental in arranging the gift, was chair of the ECE External Advisory Committee and is currently chair of the CoE External Advisory Board. In announcing the gift, Jipping remarked, “At ITC, we recognize the importance of inspiring today’s students to pursue careers in engineering, which is critical to the future of our industry. The renovated ECE Learning Center will offer an environment where students can be inspired, collaborate and advance their educational pursuits.”

In recognition of ITC’s support for the ECE Department over many years, and for this gift specifically, the ECE Learning Center will be renamed the ITC Learning Center for at least the next five years, and will be recognized as such with appropriate signage and displays.

By the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.



Chaofeng Wang is the 2018 Matt Wolfe Award Recipient

Chaofeng Wang
Chaofeng Wang

Graduate students in Electrical and Computer Engineering were recognized for their outstanding achievements in a banquet held earlier this month.

Chaofeng Wang was awarded the 2018 Matt Wolfe Award for his remarkable research achievement as a graduate research assistant. His research included the development of intelligent and secure underwater acoustic communication networks and machine learning techniques. The Matt Wolfe Award is awarded each year to an outstanding research assistant and was established in memory of Matt Wolfe by his family. Wolfe was a 1992 BSEE graduate and MSEE candidate. Wang was nominated by his advisor, Zhaohui Wang (ECE).


Mehdi Malekrah is the 2018 Jonathan Bara Outstanding Teaching Assistant

Mehdi Malekrah
Mehdi Malekrah

Graduate students in Electrical and Computer Engineering were recognized for their outstanding achievements in a banquet held earlier this month.

Mehdi Malekrah received the 2018 Jonathan Bara Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in recognition of dedication to his lab preparation, engaged redevelopment and improvement of the exercises for several of the laboratories and his engagement with students in their preparation and activities in the lab sections. The Jonathan Bara Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award is awarded annually and was established in memory of Jonathan Bara by his family. Bara was a graduate student who received a master’s of science in electrical engineering in 1975. Malekrah was nominated by his advisor, Paul Bergstrom (ECE).



Tim Havens Named ICC Director

Timothy Havens
Timothy Havens

Timothy C. Havens (ECE), the William and Gloria Jackson Associate Professor of Computer Systems, has been named director of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC), effective immediately.

The ICC is the research arm of the Alliance for Computing, Information and Automation, and one of several research centers at Michigan Tech organized under the authority of the Office of the Vice President for Research. It brings together some 50 Michigan Tech faculty members from 12 different academic units on campus, collaborating in the areas of cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data sciences, human-centered computing and scalable architectures and systems. Since its inception in 2015, it has hosted 28 funded projects, and was responsible for approximately $1.8M in external research expenditures in FY18.

As the Jackson Associate Professor, Havens holds a joint appointment in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science. He is also director of the interdisciplinary master of science program in data science. His technical areas of expertise are machine learning, computational intelligence, data science, and signal and image processing.

Havens was selected to lead the ICC by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jacqueline Huntoon and Vice President for Research David Reed, following an internal nomination and recommendation process organized by ICC Co-Director and ECE Department Chair Daniel R. Fuhrmann. Havens’ term as ICC director extends through Dec. 31, 2021.

Says Havens, “I am thrilled to be named the next director of the ICC and very much look forward to working with the entirety of the ICC membership and our connected communities to promote research and learning experiences in the areas of computing and cybersystems at Michigan Tech. I am enthused by the prospects of our ICC vision.”

By Daniel R. Fuhrmann.