The Teen Prodigy Aiming to Revolutionise Aerospace Electronics
Michael Gucluer may be just two months into his Electronics Engineering degree at the University of Warwick, however the award winning Young Engineer already has a clear ambition to play a key role in the embedded electronics revolution within the aerospace industry.At just 18 years old, Michael was named in the EW BrightSparks Class of 2018, being recognised as one of the top 30 engineers under the age of 30.
After being presented with his EW BrightSparks award in the Maxwell Library at the Institute of Engineering and Technology in London, Michael was keen to focus not only on what he had already achieved, but also his goals for the future.
“I’ve got a keen interest in embedded systems, but particularly within the aerospace industry”, he told us. “I want to look into a manufacturing technique using the 3D printing of PCB’s and circuits by using metal powders”.
“We’ve always had very linear PCB boards that take up a lot of space and you stick these onto aircraft, but a new modern technique is to use copper powders and polymer residues to be able to create 3D circuits into the structure of the aircraft itself.
“This not only takes away the weight, but reduces the material costs. You also avoid having to make casing and protecting the circuits as it is built within the infrastructure of the aircraft. As part of my university studies that is something that I would love to research and be part of.”
You can download a white paper on this process written by Bruce King and Mike Renn of Optomec by Clicking Here.
Project Andromeda – Pushing the boundaries
Michael was nominated for EW BrightSparks for his GCSE Electronics and Control project “Andromeda”, which has subsequently been developed further with support from the UK Engineers Mentoring Programme.
He told us; “The product that I developed is a multi-purpose, modular control system which can be re-programmed for industrial applications. It includes a range of optoelectronic components, so that data related to important processes can be displayed simultaneously in real-time and recorded for future use.
“Andromeda is the nearest galaxy to our planet other than the Milky Way, so I chose the name as a personal message of 'pushing the boundaries', as reaching such a place currently seems impossible.
“One of the biggest issues at the moment, specifically within the automotive industry, is that there are a lot of complex control systems, but companies are chartering out private organisations to come and fix them when something goes wrong.
“As a student I was looking to maybe start off with an open-source single device which you could add modules to in a way very similar to the Arduino or Raspberry Pi concepts. However my aim was to make it even more user friendly and try to remove the complexity of signal processing in basic code and that sort of thing.
“I was looking at taking real-time information and displaying it and storing it for future use on a single device. It taught me a lot about not only how to manufacture a product, but how to problem solve all manner of electronic issues, from not setting registers correctly on chips, to fixing short circuits.
“It was a great learning experience for me. I remember one issue where I was using a digital keypad to try and get some sort of input from the user, but the problem was that I was creating a code and a looping procedure to check columns and rows, but for some reason I wasn’t getting any input at all.
“I couldn’t work out whether there was a problem with the mathematics of the code or if it was a hardware issue. It turned out to be something as simple as a dry joint on one of the PCB sockets. Something as simple as that you wouldn’t learn without experiencing it."
The future of engineering?
RS Components and Electronics Weekly launched the BrightSparks programme in 2017 to highlight the talent that exists within the UK electronics industry and to provide positive role models to inspire the next generation of engineers.
Michael believes that whilst every student person is different, this approach is a positive one.
“I started off with Picaxe chips, which are common in education for teaching younger students how to program in basic and to interface with microcontrollers”, he said. “It taught me a lot about the concepts of serial communication and digital inputs/outputs. It also showed me how to take analog inputs and convert them into digital signals so that you can control outputs like motors.
“I think the best way of getting young people interested in engineering is to find something that they can relate to and trying to give them positive role models. It is important to for fellow young engineers like myself and the other BrightSparks winners to be able to share our passion and interests, to help imprint that onto the younger generation.
“Every person is different and it isn’t easy to pin down what will get them interested. From my perspective, I was very interested in physics and chemistry but wasn’t really interested in electronics or computer science. That came about for me going into GCSE’s and I think that is a very critical time during education.
“Nowadays it is so easy to go and buy electronics kits like Raspberry Pi, Arduino or Microbit from places like RS Components. Maybe introducing these as a mandatory part of the school curriculum could be a way of generating more graduates in these subjects in the future.”
BrightSparks 2019, who will you nominate?
Nominations for BrightSparks 2019 are now open. You can nominate yourself, a colleague, a peer, a student or a talented engineer that has impressed you, as long as they meet the following criteria:
- Aged between 16 and 30 (inclusive) by 31st March 2019
- Based in the UK
- Actively pursuing a career as an electronics engineer, or studying electronics in further or higher education
To enter, simply fill in the entry form on the Electronics Weekly website by following the link above.