Our PCBs for Education program enables us to help future engineers by actively partnering with professors and students in support of their classroom engineering projects and team competitions by providing printed circuit board manufacturing services. This month we’d like to highlight one such group, the CalSTAR Rocketry Team from UC Berkeley, which designs and builds high-powered rockets for multiple national and international competitions. From CalSTAR:

We use Bay Area Circuits’ PCBs for all of our flight electronics and ground systems, for both the actual electronics used at launches and for electronics test setups during lab verification.

Our boards are typically very small, with little margin for error, and require precise specifications to be met for design elements like RF trace widths. Bay Area Circuits has been very consistent in ensuring that these specifications are met, allowing us to move quickly through our design and manufacture process.

For the 2018 NASA Student Launch competition, we were tasked with constructing a compact rover that first had to survive a high-powered rocket flight to 5280 ft and a subsequent parachute landing. After landing, it would deploy itself from the rocket, drive a short distance, and deploy a set of folding solar panels. Our solution to this complex challenge involved a black powder device on one side of the rover, a scissor lift on the other, and an additional two PCBs inside the rover for radio and motion control respectively. Over the course of the year–and many revisions to our design–we were able to successfully demonstrate each part of the system.

By being able to actually work with hardware design ourselves, we gained valuable experience that other teams using more commercial-off-the-shelf solutions did not. With this experience, we are confident in our decision to compete in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC), held in New Mexico at the Spaceport America Cup.

This year, our electronics array consists of a first-stage flight computer, a second-stage flight computer, a first-stage telemetry and power control board, a second-stage telemetry and power control board, and a second-stage engine controller. On the ground we have another custom radio transceiver that can collect data from both rocket stages simultaneously for live position, altitude, attitude, internal state, and flight status data.

Without Bay Area Circuits’ continued support, our members would not be able to have this wonderful hands-on experience with real industry tools and design processes.

For more information on the CalSTAR team visit: https://stars.berkeley.edu/

And, for more information on our PCBs for Education program visit: Sponsorship