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EECS Shop Augments Willger's Education

April 24, 2011

Tom WillgerAfter spending months carefully planning their senior projects, students submit their circuit designs to Tom Willger in the EECS Shop. Willger, a graduating senior in electrical engineering, turns the electronic files into printed circuits boards that will house the interconnected circuits and components used in electronic devices.  

“Tom has all the initiative in the world. He works with students to make it as easy as possible for them,” says Willger’s supervisor, EECS Electronics Technologist Tom Colwell. “Last year Tom fabricated more than 100 boards, saving the Department thousands of dollars.”

Willger started working in the EECS Shop as a sophomore. While his duties include supervising other student hourlies, overseeing the front desk and tracking inventory, his first priority is the milling machine. He generates machine codes that are imported into the milling machine software, which  organizes the layers, the sizes of drill holes and verifies the design. He then secures a thin board to the milling machine. A layer of copper material is placed over the board and then tracks, or signal traces, are etched from copper sheets to create the required electrical isolation and ground planes.

In addition to EE and CoE projects, Willger fabricates boards for EECS faculty and staff. EECS Assistant Professor Sarah Seguin has requested milled boards for radar systems she was developing. Dr. Seguin’s positive interactions with Willger led her to ask his Senior Design Laboratory II group (Willger, Masayuki PakJacob Hamilton, and Matthew Kitchen) to build a near-field probing station, which is part of a new extensive electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) testing chamber. EMC testing ensures all electronic devices operating within the same environment, such as equipment in airplanes, avoid interfering with one another.

 “The Senior Design Lab gives us a chance to put everything we have learned into the development of a practical project. When you spend hours and hours--some of them quite stressful--with the same few people, you really get to know them. It is a great experience,” Willger says. 

 Willger has spent the last four years as a resident of the Grace Pearson Scholarship Hall. He served as its president for two semesters (spring and fall 2010), running meetings, conducting constitutional reviews, organizing the calendar and monitoring the progress of initiatives. He participates in intramural sports and does his share of chores as well, including doing the dinner dishes twice a week for the 50 residents.  

“Being an engineering student, working part time, and leading a scholarship hall, time becomes a valuable resource. You are not always going to be able to do what you want to do,” Willger says. “It is so important to stay focused on your short- and long-term goals.”  

According to Willger, routine was critical to his success. He and Pak meet every weekday night in Spahr Library. Having the discipline to set aside a few hours every day to study helped him succeed in his rigorous major. Willger graduated this May and is working at Texas Instruments as a test systems developer.

**Photo Courtesy of School of Engineering

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