[Rick] knew that the blinking, beeping microcontroller kits that are commonly used for educational soldering workshops just would not cut it for a serious combat among SMD reworking professionals. The “Soldering Challenge” he created to fill this gap is a little PCB with eight difficulty levels from large through hole components to the smallest hand solderable SMDs. After assembly, the circuit assesses the skill level of the soldering aspirant based on a built-in scoring system.
The challenge is meant to be played on a time limit. There are no two same-sized components of different value, so contestants may focus on soldering fast. Little rubber pads on the backside of the board provide for good ground contact in the curves. After the starting signal, you will be confronted with a few through hole resistors, a capacitor, different LEDs and a DIP-8 IC. Here it’s all about the speed and efficiency as you tackle a track full of bends and cut-off resistor legs. Over the course of the challenge, the components get smaller and smaller, until you finally reach the 0603 level, with a tiny SC-85 MOS-FET and a TSSOP 555 timer at the finishing line.
After finishing, the contestants press a 9 V battery onto the marked pads to read their score from the LEDs. A steady LED counts one point, a blinking LED earns two. The design is available on CircuitMaker for free and fits the design rules of any dirt cheap board manufacturer, so everybody may join the challenge. If you score all 8 points under the current record of 17 m 21 s let [Rick] know to get your record on the league table. The video below lets you witness the very first contest held at the Attraktor makerspace Hamburg.