DESIGNING CIRCUIT BOARDS
STEMpower team has now established 43 hands-on STEM Centers across Ethiopia enriching an entire generation of thousands of young engineers. The new generation of engineers have tested their electronics circuit designs with experimental arrangements, and now they are typically confident enough to commercialize their product ideas.
STEMpower founder Mark Gelfand and his engineer son Evan realized that commercialization in most cases would require electronic components to be permanently and ruggedly secured. The technology is known as printed circuit boards. But commercialized circuit boards are custom to each application. Usually circuit boards can be expensive in small quantities, error-prone and risky in large-quantities. Plus, it's an environmental challenge to etch away the copper cladding while making large quantities.
How to make circuit boards in Ethiopia?
Gelfand brought the answer into our new FabLab. Four Voltera machines seemed to be exactly what was needed to produce modest quantities of commercial-quality custom-designed circuit boards.
Allowing students to take their proven designs and develop miniaturized versions with far less time & financial risks, later enabling them to scale to high volumes of production.
Quickly yet carefully, young engineers and our amazing STEM students, installed the Voltera equipment, and then studied its circuit board design software.
Their first circuit board design was called "Hello World", which is a famous engineering phrase to quickly verify that basic systems are working. "Hello World" for our circuit boards meant blinking LED s and beeps, plus an integrated circuit (IC), resistors and capacitors, and a 9 volt battery.
For a faster jump towards commercialization, the team chose to utilize modern surface-mount technology, which involves advanced techniques such as parts placement and solder re-flow. It had been unimaginable that Ethiopian engineers would ever design their own circuits utilizing such beneficial technology.
Today, the first commercially-viable high-quality custom circuit boards were manufactured, in Ethiopia, entirely by young Ethiopian engineers.
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