In Their Element

One of the truly fun diversions of the electronics manufacturing community has been the ongoing Friday Element Quiz on the IPC TechNet email listserv.

For nearly two years, a few clues have been posited to the TechNet members each week, who then try to guess the corresponding element. (No element was repeated.)

The quiz was the brainchild of Dave Hillman, an engineer at Rockwell Collins and one of the longtime contributors to the listserv. Each week, Hillman (with the help of a few reference manuals), poses a question to the group. For example:

This element has no biological role for humans. History shows that the mineral containing this element was encountered in silver mines in the Bohemia (Czech Republic) in the Middle Ages and was give a name that is the combination of the words “ill luck” and deceiver” because it was found to have no use. This element plays a significant role in industry today in several different industry segments and is more abundant that tin in the Earth’s crust. What element is being described?*

For those not keeping track, the first winner was Lamar Young of SCS Coatings; the most recent was Hillman’s colleague Doug Pauls. Over the 96 weeks the quiz has run, there have been several repeat winners. The leaders to date are Dr. Bev Christian of RIM, who has picked the correct answer eight times, nosing out Leland Woodall of CSTech, who has correctly named seven elements.

Given there are 112 elements, the FEQ should be winding down. By popular demand, however, Hillman has stocked up on new reference books and pledges to start over.

Let the good times roll.

*The element is Uranium (U).


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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

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