The gold medal and a handshake from the Federal Councillor
Melvin Deubelbeiss has made it – last Saturday, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin presented him with the gold medal and named the 20-year-old PSI electronics technician the country’s best job talent in his field. At the national SwissSkills competition in Bern, Melvin managed to hold his own against eight competitors, securing first place.
Melvin didn’t get much rest during this time: after two weeks of intensive training, he started the competition last Wednesday – that evening, he learned that he had qualified for the finals on Friday and Saturday. After that, everything happened really quickly: tricky tasks, tremendous time pressure and a high level of dexterity were required – then, on Saturday evening, a huge sense of relief: Melvin had made it to the top of the podium.
“It was incredible. All those people, in that big hall... It was very emotional – a fantastic feeling,” Melvin recalls, his eyes shining. “All the hard work definitely paid off.” But even now there was no question of taking a rest. “Of course, we celebrated hard too,” he smiles. “The SwissSkills afterparty is something you can’t afford to miss.”
Varied training at PSI
Melvin Deubelbeiss completed the 4-year apprenticeship as an electronics technician at PSI and graduated in August. During his apprenticeship, he had the opportunity to work in various departments, learning the profession and perfecting his skills. He worked in high-energy physics for one year, until finally joining the Electronics for Measurement Systems group, where he will continue to work in the future.
“PSI is a very exciting place to do your training. Where complex physics is being done, there’s also a need for complex electronics. A particle detector, for example, only produces a very weak signal – in order for this signal to be used, it must first be amplified and measured. Software is needed to process the information and record the trajectory, and the module may also need a cabinet – all this is part of our job,” Melvin describes his responsibilities.
Melvin’s employer didn’t just support him during his working hours, though, but also in the projects he was pursuing during his leisure time. “I’m a bit of an electronics nerd, really. At home, I set up a small lab to pursue my own projects. At the moment I’m working on an LED ring. When this spins really quickly, it simulates a sphere. My goal is to create a globe that displays all the continents and oceans of the world. I received a lot of support for this project from PSI and was even allowed to use the equipment on site.”
The experience Melvin gained during his free time and his varied activities at PSI ultimately helped him in the competition – because SwissSkills makes high demands and time is short.
Soldering and programming against the clock
The competition was divided into different disciplines. For the prototyping tasks, which were set in the morning, participants had to assemble components and circuits to come up with the right result. “If all the LEDs light up at the end, you’ve solved the task correctly – the quality of a solder joint can decide whether you win a gold or a silver medal,” explains Melvin.
The programming tasks followed in the afternoon – and this is where Melvin really raked in the points. “A large part of my work at PSI consists of programming – and this is where I see my strengths. Soldering isn’t really my thing,” he adds with a grin, “especially not under such time pressure.”
The toughest opponent in this competition is the clock. “The tasks themselves wouldn’t be that difficult – but, when you only have 2.5 hours for a 3.5-hour problem, you don’t have much time to make mistakes in your reasoning,” says Melvin, describing the competitive conditions.
In the end, he made it though. Thanks to thorough preparation, hard training, enthusiastic support and also the necessary experience – because this was the second time that Melvin was able to compete at SwissSkills. “In 2020, I won bronze in Lucerne. I competed against a colleague of mine, Mario Liechti who is also an electronics technician at PSI. Back then, Mario won first prize and this year he is taking part in the world championships. He and my vocational trainer Alfred Albisser supported me by giving me valuable advice during this year’s preparations.”
Melvin remains loyal to PSI
After the much deserved afterparty on Saturday evening, the event continued for Melvin on Sunday: he remained on duty for the SwissSkills umbrella event before finally heading home that evening. On Monday, the next big step: his first day at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland – Melvin is beginning his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Information Technology. In future, he will study at the UAS two days a week and work at PSI the remaining three days – where he will be helping to upgrade the Swiss Spallation Neutron Source SINQ.
After the three-week marathon, Melvin has finally earned a break: “I’m going to treat myself to a long weekend before school starts again on Monday. Relax, sit back, and process and enjoy all the emotions. Next year, I’ll be off to the SwissSkills competition again – this time my big goal will be the world championships!”
Text: Paul Scherrer Institute/Benjamin A. Senn