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Bill Brooks of Nordson ASYMTEK is a long-time PCB designer and one of the first people to teach PCB design courses in a college setting. He recently spoke with the I-Connect007 editorial team about his history in design and his time as a PCB design instructor, the curriculum he developed and taught, and various techniques that might be enacted today to better educate the designers of tomorrow.
Andy Shaughnessy: Bill, can you start by giving us a little background about yourself and how you got into PCB design?
Bill Brooks: My dad was a technician in the aerospace industry. He started a PCB shop out of his garage when I was in high school. I spent some time learning the process with him and ended up working in his shop for about five years. I ended up getting my first PCB de-sign job with Sub Sea Systems in Escondido. Then, I did job shopping for various companies around the San Diego Area for many years.
Matties: And how did you learn printed circuit design?
Brooks: My father taught me from the beginning. He bought the materials and a design book from Bishop Graphics. I learned the whole manufacturing process before doing design, such as drilling, plating, etching, routing, and putting in eyelets in boards. He got me started, and I learned a lot more as I worked for other companies throughout my career and attended seminars and workshops at design-related events.
Matties: What year was that?
Brooks: It was around 1970.
Matties: Fast forward to when you started your design classes. What inspired you to do that?
Brooks: When I competed in PCB Top Gun at PCB West in 2000, Rick Hartley interviewed us during the competition. After I told him my story, he asked, “Have you ever thought of mentoring?” I had not, but that seed he planted inspired me to find some way to give back to the designer community and made me find the IPC Designers Council booth at the show. I joined the IPC Designers Council and later became acquainted with Gary Ferrari, Andy Kowalewski, Glenn Wells, Dieter Bergman, Susy Webb, Cherie Litson, Paul Fleming, Jack Olson, Bill Gebhardt, Leslie Gomez, Professor Rainer Thüringer, Happy Holden, Tom Hausherr, Doug Brooks, Jeff Condit, Ben Jordon, Jean Stout, and a large community of professional PCB designers. I accepted an invitation to join the Designers Council Education Committee and Executive Committee as a volunteer to help lead the design community and represent them to IPC.
I became certified to teach the Designers Council CID workshops and had many discussions with the designers and professionals along the way before I took on the idea of teaching a class in the California Community College System. I joined the leadership in the local IPC chapter in San Diego and was elected to office there to help grow the chapter. I later was introduced to Ann Reese, the department chair at Palomar College who was running her own PCB design classes. I spoke with her about adding curriculum based on the Designers Council, and she wanted to have me teach the class as she was planning to retire. They put me through the process of getting approved as an adjunct professor/instructor based on my 40+ years of design experience since I didn’t have a teaching degree.
Once I had the approval, they hired me as the instructor for the beginning and advanced PCB design courses. I taught semester-based classes for about 10 years at Palomar College. The most important thing is that I found a way over some hurdles to bring quality education to the students in the local college system, which aligned with my desire to help more designers get into this industry. This occupation was otherwise devoid of any real channels through which designers could get a decent introduction.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the August 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.