Project Definition, Expectations, and Guidelines


The goal of this course is to provide you with the basic skill set to design a printed circuit board.  This page discusses the course goals and objectives in greater detail.


"Hard Way Hughes""This is an introductory course where you will develop the basic skills needed to create a rigid PCB.  Hopefully, you find the process as interesting as I do and decide to pursue the topic further.  My name is Mark, and I'm one of your facilitators for the next several weeks."

People need to know who you are.  So for your first project, you will create either a name badge to wear or a nameplate for your desk (your choice). 

While you will have many choices in design, the schematic is not one of them.  This is a course in PCB Design and does not cover all of the necessary aspects of electrical engineering needed to allow you to design your own schematic.  Several of our instructors will explain our design decisions to you whenever possible, and many of the skills you learn will be directly translatable to your first independent schematic design.  For example -- you will still be able to move your design from breadboard to PCB, and you can use SparkFun or Adafruit modules as building blocks.

Image of multiple badges from article on artistic circuitboards.  #Badgelife

Course Goal:

Design, manufacture, and assemble a functioning nameplate or badge with your name on it.

Course Instructors:

Bob Martin, the "Wizard of Make", Senior Design Engineer at Microchip Technologies
Mark "Hard-Way" Hughes, Research Director, Royal Circuit Solutions

Course Level

  • This course is intended for upper level (junior/senior) electrical engineering students and practicing engineers who understand how to create schematics, but do not yet have the experience to layout a printed circuit board.  This course is also appropriate for the advanced hobbyist or HAM.
  • While we will touch on some advanced signal-integrity and power-integrity topics such as NEXT, FEXT, ESD protection, etc... adding too much to an introductory course can cause an overall reduction in content retention.  Those topics are reserved for a possible future course.

Essentially, if you can get a project to work on a solderless breadboard, prototype breadboard, or wire-wrap board, but have been scared of making the jump to PCBs, this course is right for you.  If this course is successful, a follow-up course that covers signal integrity and power integrity may be scheduled.

Course Requirements

  • This course is free and the content will remain online as a reference for future Royal Circuit customers.  PCB manufacture and assembly are free for 50 participants thanks to the generous support of our sponsors (Advanced Assembly, Digikey, Keysight, Microchip Technologies, Royal Circuit Solutions)
  • Approximately 2-4 hours of work per week that consists of reading course content or watching course videos.
  • Independent work at home that will require 1-2 hours most weeks.  The week we do layout will certainly take many participants longer than 4-hours.  We will offer pre-packaged resources where possible so participants are not overly consumed with work.
  • PCB Design software (free versions are available)

Course Participants

  • All participants are expected to maintain pace with the rest of the class.  We will maintain an aggressive timeline to stay on pace for a board bring-up session at Sensors Expo.  We will not pause the production of the PCBs because a participant has not completed their work in a timely fashion.  A sponsored participants spot will be forfeited to someone on the waiting list if they are not participating fully in the course.

Course Sponsors

Course Objectives:

  • Learn how to create custom parts and footprints for your design library.
  • Learn how to layout a basic schematic.
  • Learn how to create a PCB stack up.
  • Learn how to place parts on a circuitboard.
  • Learn how to connect pins and route traces on a PCB.
  • Learn how to "bring up your board" for the first time.

More about the Badge

The project design is a collaboration between Bob Martin and Mark Hughes.  The following optional video shows the very beginning of the project idea.

Protip:  High-intensity ring lights cause blinking :)

"I initially narrowed the microprocessor used in the design down to Silicon Labs EFM32HG310 or Microchip ATMega328P.  A day or so later, fate made the decision for me.  Bob and I had a chance to speak and he suggested using the ATMega so we could make use of the extensive programming libraries from Sparkfun and Adafruit Industries.

With a basic idea of what was going to be built, the final design was discussed in a series of back-and-forth emails.  The block diagram is shown below."



Basic Block Diagram

HardWay Hughes"Now, with block diagram in hand, we can begin to design each one of the building blocks, tie them all together and then make our schematic."

Bob volunteered to capture the schematic in Altium Designer.  Once he has finalized the bill-of-materials, we can get to work.

The Wizard of Make"Not a problem.  I'll have it done in no time."

Last modified: Wednesday, 25 March 2020, 1:17 PM