IPC Supporting Newcomers in the Industry: Notes from IPC APEX EXPO 2021


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With the wrap-up of IPC APEX EXPO 2021, it was extremely gratifying to note the emphasis placed on getting young people involved to combat the “graying out” knowledge losses facing our industry. A part of that emphasis was reflected in the award ceremony on Tuesday, March 9, which featured some people you may have seen mentioned in my “Better to Light a Candle” columns.

In no particular order:

C_IPCEF_Christopher_Middlebrook.jpgDr. Christopher Middlebrook of Michigan Technological University received the Michael Carano Teacher Excellence Award for his work spearheading the formation of an undergraduate class in electronics manufacturing combining in-house, hands-on student design, fabrication, assembly, and test of multilayer circuit board assemblies with 30 to 40 industry subject matter guest lectures per semester. Now in its third year, this class serves as the prototype and template for the “Electronic Manufacturing Technical Education Project,” establishing local industry/academia collaborative education opportunities across the United States. Dr. Middlebrook provides exemplary leadership of one of the first IPC student chapters, and an SMTA student chapter, as well as military and industrial developments in optoelectronics.

In an interview, Dr. Middlebrook said one of the best aspects of the award was that it is based on the nomination of a current or former student. “The greatest reward for me is the positive feedback from the students on the uniquely hands-on opportunities of this class, and the opportunity to directly connect theoretical education with the realities of electronic manufacturing,” he said.

The Awards Ceremony also recognized four “IPC Rising Star” recipients—young people recognized for their hard work and noteworthy contributions to the industry:

  • Benoit Dagenais of the Innovative Vehicle Institute in Quebec, Canada
  • Radu Diaconescu of Swie.io in Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Vladen Koncar, a professor at ENSAIT, in Roubaix. France
  • Audra Thurston, product realization manager/R&D engineering manager at Calumet Electronics, Calumet Michigan

Audra_Thurston_250.jpgAudra Thurston is 2018 Michigan Tech grad in chemical engineering who stayed in the Upper Peninsula to start a career at Calumet Electronics. In an interview, Audra expressed thanks to the management team at Calumet (specifically naming Dr. Meredith LaBeau and Todd Brassard) for having faith and confidence in their young engineers, giving them the opportunity and responsibility to run with their assignments, accept their conclusions and implement the result. She saw this as a tremendous growth and learning experience. She said she would “like to encourage young people, whether in high school, university, post-grad, or early-career professionals to look at careers in the electronics manufacturing industry” because of the clear opportunities to be a part of a never-ending, and ever-changing field that has real impact.

Five new student members of IPC’s two-year Emerging Engineers program were recognized during the Awards Ceremony as well as during Thursday’s IPC Educational Forum:

  • Michael Ceraso, fourth-year student in electrical engineering at the University of New Orleans
  • Raviteja Boyana, master’s student in mechanical engineering, specializing in electronic packaging and reliability at University of Maryland, College Park
  • Rishi Garg, third-year year student in electrical engineering at North Carolina State, Raleigh
  • Adam Popper, fourth-year student in electrical engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
  • Paige Fiet, fourth-year student in electrical engineering, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan

Paige_Fiet_headshot.jpgPaige Fiet is a recipient of the IPC Student Scholarship, the first student representative (with full voting rights) to the IPC Board of Directors, chair of the IPC and Electronics Student Chapter at MTU, a current student of Dr. Middlebrook’s EE2230/2231 hands-on design/fab/assemble/test classes, and an avid participant in the peculiarly-unique-to-Michigan-Tech winter sport of broomball (think of a cross between field hockey, lacrosse, and conventional hockey played on a hockey rink with a large rubber ball) and a broom (sometimes dipped in water and frozen) wearing sneakers. She’s also interned with Calumet Electronics. She’s looking to apply her EE degree in biomedical applications.

On Thursday, March 11, IPC’s newly strengthened Education Foundation held an overview of its 2020-2021 activities, co-hosted by Charlene Gunter du Plessis, senior director of the IPC Education Foundation, and Aaron Birney, program manager of the IPC Education Foundation. This was very much a dual track emphasis on STEM and secondary activities for secondary and pre-secondary students and a large (350-400 student members) post-secondary education group of student chapters.

Again, it’s great to see organizations stepping up to fill the many gaps in the pathway toward ensuring an ongoing field of young electronics manufacturing staff.

It’s vitally important that we industry veterans find ways to pass along the hard-won experience and passion for this industry to the next generation, and we urge you to find a way to get involved.

For more coverage of the IPCEF Forum, click here. To read more about IPC APEX EXPO 2021, check out our post-show coverage here.

Marc Carter of Aeromarc has worked in the electronics interconnection industry since 1984 in a variety of roles in fabrication and assembly materials, processes, environmental compliance, and supply chain management activities around the world. He has had the honor and privilege of working with and learning from many of the true giants of this industry in multiple functions over many years. His experience includes a major mil-aero OEM, field and development work at materials suppliers to the printed circuit industry, and an educational stint as the sole proprietor of a manufacturer’s agency representing multiple high-tech mil-aero material suppliers. For further information, he can be reached at pmcarter01@outlook.com.

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