On Friday March 28th 2014, Mike Smith ran his first version of the pcb class that is now being offered at FamiLAB. Mike showed up at 2 p.m. to prepare the classroom for his 6:30 p.m. workshop. Arriving over 4 hours early might seem like overkill, but in a makerspace, there is no telling what condition the space, or the makers, may be in at any time. Plus, he had mechanisms to assemble, parts to sort, and instructional materials to be laid out.
Attendees will show up early to workshops. Some will assist in the set up. Other makers may show up anticipating the build with equal parts anxiousness and doubt. This is a first run and there are no guarantees that what is planned will produce positive, if any, results.
As the class begins each maker started off with a pre-sensitized pcb blank, a bag of electronic components, and some volatile chemicals. In addition to that were a UV radiation chamber plus a rotary tool and soldering tools.
After a brief process overview and some valuable technical instruction, we set up the registration of our circuit templates and solder mask transparencies onto glass plates.
Once the plates were aligned, we went out into the well-ventilated warehouse and mixed our chemical developer and etching solutions. Once the chemicals were measured and mixed, we headed back into the classroom to make the printed circuit boards.
Mike walked us through the process at a moderate pace. No one was left behind, which is why the last 3 makers, the only 3 to complete the project in one sitting, finished at 5 a.m. By this time each of us was in a euphoric state, pleased with the results but exhausted. As individuals, each one of us had difficulties with some aspect of the process. As a group, we got through it. Being able to get stuck and simply look across the table or ask the person next to you for answers is the essence of the maker community experience. Had I been working at home I would have paused or shelved the project and put it off to be completed at another time. At FamiLAB, momentum builds over time, friction is low, and the gravity is strong.
Note: Mike has run the pcb workshop since this first trial and has streamlined the process and adjusted the scope of the project. If you want to gain insight into microcontrollers, build confidence in your technical prowess, and have fun at the same time, I recommend this workshop!