Electrical engineering students create circuit boards in inaugural “Build-a-Board” workshop


First-year electrical engineering students learned the fundamentals of electronic design by fabricating their own circuit boards at the inaugural “Build-a-Board” workshop.

The event was hosted by the Engineering Innovation Hub (EIH), an experiential learning space with resources for fabrication, automation, robotics and modeling on Notre Dame’s campus.

“Students leave the workshop with a circuit board they’ve made themselves,” said Mike Schafer, teaching professor in electrical engineering. “They discover how schematic information is transferred to a board, the processes used to build boards, and get their first lesson in soldering.”

Prof. Mike Schafer showing build-a-board participants how to use a machine in the EIH

The workshop introduced all phases of circuit board assembly—from board design to component placement to final testing. Students also learned about the processes and machines involved with circuit fabrication. 

Senior electrical engineering majors Eric Hawkins and Alexa Zeese taught workshop participants how to create secure electrical and mechanical connections between board components with soldering, an essential skill for electronic device assembly. 

A student is teaching another student how to solder
Student soldering

“When you solder a board, you learn how components are placed and how they work within a circuit,” said Zeese. “Designing and building boards is a huge part of the electrical engineering industry, so the sooner students learn how it’s done the better.”

When students powered their finished boards, their microcontrollers connected to the internet via WiFi to retrieve the time, date and weather. They also used their boards to change the brightness of three LEDs. 

“Electrical engineering is more than math and theory,” said Schafer. “This workshop shows how it can be very hands-on.”

Completed and powered on board with mini-display that reads "EE in the EIH!!"

— Karla Cruise, Notre Dame College of Engineering; photos by Wes EvardNotre Dame College of Engineering