A PCB at Any Hour

Posted by on August 1st, 2015

How Team Boom Done Used an LPKF PCB Prototyping System to Assist the FIRST Robotics Competition

What do you do when you need a printed circuit board at 1 AM? If you’re a member of Team Boom Done, you fire up your LPKF ProtoMat S103 and get things done. But just how does one arrive at such a predicament? Let me tell the tale.

The Team

Team Boom Done is a robotics team comprised of 15 engineers, all of whom have a passion for supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. As such, the Bedford, Massachusetts-based team has taken keen interest in the 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). The contest, which pairs high school students with engineers, lasts 6 weeks. During this time teams build robots that compete in the contest’s sporting game, Aerial Assist.

For many of the participating students, FRC is their first exposure to robotics or even engineering in general. In order to provide instructional reference for the competitors, a secondary contest is held: iR3’s “Robot in 3 Days.” Here, teams have 3 days to build a robot worthy of participating in Aerial Assault… and this is where we come across Team Boom Done’s frantically written white board.

A PCB at Any Hour

Sacrificing sleep in order to complete the task, it took Team Boom Done 72 hours to engineer and build a ball-launching, catapult-esque robot that would make even the most fearless medieval lord quiver in his castle.

When it came time to fabricate the three 5” x 8” double-sided PCBs needed for the robot’s 7-segment LED display, Team Boom Done knew they only had one choice: to use an in-house PCB milling machine capable of instantly producing the circuitry needed to complete the robot, which by now had been affectionately nick-named El Toro.

In the span of just a few hours, the three large boards were milled on the team’s LPKF ProtoMat S103. The PCBs, which interface with the robot’s sonar module, were produced on FR4.

A Competition with a Cause

As Team Boom Done worked tirelessly to complete El Toro, they documented the event on Twitter (@TeamBoomDone) and the competition’s home page. Each step of the process was made public to serve as a point of reference for students anywhere and everywhere. Team Boom Done even posted Gerber and other project files online so students can directly access their work.

For team leader Dr. Joe Johnson, Boom Dones service held two important meanings: providing students with instructional guidance, as well as introducing them to tools real engineers use in the workplace… tools such as Team Boom Dones midnight savior, the ProtoMat S103.

To view El Toro in action, watch this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST8ixUmxmes

To learn which LPKF rapid PCB prototyping system might best benefit your workplace, try our 5-step System Selector which will instantly provide you with a machine recommendation:

http://www.lpkfusa.com/systemselector/

Special thanks to Dr. Joe Johnson and Steven Shamlian of Team Boom Done.