Asee peer logo

A Project-based Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Electronics Course

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Course Transformation in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Karl Brakora Grand Valley State University

visit author page

Karl Brakora is an assistant professor at Grand Valley State University and an engineer for BT Engineering. He has worked on conformal vapor-phase deposited EMI/HPM shields for circuit board, lightweight composite aircraft enclosures for HEMP/HPM, and non-GPS positioning systems and techniques. Previously, he was lead RF engineer for EMAG Technologies Inc. in Ann Arbor, Michigan from 2007 to 2014. There he worked to develop innovative technologies in the area of compact, low-cost phase arrays, high-speed signal acquisition and processing for radar command-guidance of supersonic and hypersonic munitions, and advanced PCB packaging techniques. Previously, he was a graduate student with the Radiation Laboratory of the University of Michigan where his research focus was on ceramic prototyping techniques, integrated ceramic microwave systems, and applications of metamaterials and photonic crystals. He has authored four papers for refereed journals and given many conference presentations on the applications of advanced ceramic fabrication techniques to microwave devices. Dr. Brakora holds 5 US patents and has several unpublished patents and patent applications.

visit author page


Lihong (Heidi) Jiao Grand Valley State University

visit author page

Dr. Jiao is a Professor in the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing at Grand Valley State University. Her areas of interest include semiconductor device fabrication and characterization, nano-materials, nano-devices, fiber optics, and nanotechnology education. Her research activities involve inorganic/organic solar cells, organic light emitting diodes, and MEMs/NEMs for sensor applications.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The economics of electronics and embedded system development have changed significantly over the last decade. Many local industries which do not maintain full-time electronics development staff have demanded that electrical engineering graduates support small-scale custom electronic development efforts, and projects that previously would have been contracted are increasingly handled internally. The same developments that have driven demand for custom electronics in industry have made it flexible and affordable to deliver a project-based PCB design course in a single semester. XXX University offers an electrical engineering senior elective course covering project specification, software/firmware development, CAD layout, PCB fabrication, surface-mount (SMT) assembly, circuit testing, remediation, integration, and packaging. Over the course of a semester, student teams design, assemble, test, package, and demonstrate unique embedded system projects.

This paper presents the benefits and challenges of teaching and administering a design-build-test embedded system project course in electrical engineering and addresses plans for ongoing improvement. The course instructs students in each element of an electronics development project. This starts with recognizing electronics problems, specifying critical design functionalities, identifying constraints, anticipating risks and failure modes, and designing for test and remediation. During the course, students receive instruction in proper firmware coding techniques, common electronic circuits and practices, component selection, power regulation, ADC functionality, transmission line theory, signal integrity, layout guidelines, and PCB fabrication techniques each of which the students apply to a semester-spanning project. Student teams order custom PCB boards from commercial vendors, assemble circuits with SMT technology, program, test, and remediate their electronic projects. This paper analyzes the effectiveness of this course, considers feedback, and makes recommendations for future offerings.

Brakora, K., & Jiao, L. H. (2020, June), A Project-based Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Electronics Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34037

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015