How to MacGyver a circuit board just one highlight of ECE Week

An iron, a little cola, some hydrogen student Carson Dick staged a demonstration on how to DIY a circuit board, as part of UAlberta Electrical and Computer Engineering Week. Upcoming events include industry mixers and a Hack-a-Thon this weekend.

(Edmonton) A week of events dedicated to students in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is showing off the creative side of engineers.

With presentations from industry members like GE and Jobber, a Hack-A-Thon and lab tours, ECE Week opens the doors to engineering disciplines that literally power the world.

“The purpose is to celebrate the technologies and industries of electrical and computer engineering, to help students learn more about what we’re able to do and to network with industry,” said fourth-year computer engineering student Arjun Kalburgi, one of the event organizers.

Some of the scheduled events have a clearly creative bent. It’s a mistake to assume that electrical and computer engineering—and the engineering physics program—are all about hard numbers. Kalburgi points to an upcoming presentation on making data presentations by Dark Horse Analytics as a prime example.

“If you see the presentation by Dark Horse you’ll see that the opposite is true. They’re about data visualization so numbers—data and visualizing numbers in a way that’s visually pleasing—it totally destroys the mentality of “numbers vs art.” There are many ways that we can be creative,” Kalburgi said.

Citing the upcoming Cheriton Lecture “How We Started a Multi-Million-Dollar Tech Company” being delivered by computer engineering alumnus Hemi Thaker, Kalburgi says: “You have to be creative to start a company like that.”

Student-led presentations also have a strong DIY ethos. Student Carson Dick created two presentations on using low-tech methods to build high-tech gear.

Instead of stocking up on expensive hard-to-get chemicals to make a PCB circuit board, Dick came up with a creative solution: hydrogen peroxide, salt, and Coca-Cola. If applied to a copper board with a circuit design, the mix dissolves the copper layer, producing a fully-functional circuit board ready for simple applications.

“Everyone in their second year of electrical engineering can build it,” Dick says about manufacturing an engineering students’ must-have device.

All of the ‘ingredients’ are easily available in engineering labs and grocery stores. 

“It can cost between $20 - $100 to buy a custom-made circuit board,” said Dick. If you build one, however, you are looking at $5 - $10.

Dick’s creativity doesn’t end with a circuit: On Wednesday, Jan. 25 he will be turning a beer bottle into an energy storage.

The idea behind the workshops is to show students the creative component of electrical engineering.  “Students will be able to find love for the Faculty outside the academics and explore new ways of doing things,” said Dick.

This is the first time the ECE Week features student-led DIY workshops.

“We’re just testing the waters, trying something new,” said Dick, promising to bring more hands-on presentations next year. 

ECE Week Schedule of events

For a complete listing of ECE Week events visit the ECE Week website.

11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, January 25 @ StartUpEdmonton

Make a Data Visualization
Dark Horse Analytics
5 p.m. Wednesday, ATCO lab, ETLC

DIY Electronic Components: One Person's junk is Another Person’s Beer-Bottle Capacitor
Carson Dick - SPIE Student Club
5 p.m. Wednesday, COLT lab, ETLC

Dr. Jie Chen & Scott Mackay - ECE Department
5 p.m. Wednesday, ECERF entrance

Cheriton Distinguished Lecture
“How We Built a Multi-million Dollar Tech Company”
Hemi Thaker
8th Floor Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering
4:30 to 6 p.m.
RSVP to lectures dot rsvp at ece dot ualberta dot ca

Industry Social
Mix and mingle with industry professionals in the ETLC Solarium.
RSVP here

Saturday and Sunday
HackEd 2017
Saturday and Sunday, January 28-29th @ StartUP Edmonton.
Visit the ECE Week website for details.