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An Undergraduate Mems Course For Everyone

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 8: Materials, MEMS, and Nano

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.204.1 - 9.204.9

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Paper Authors

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Thomas Adams

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3566

An Undergraduate MEMS Course for Everyone Thomas M. Adams Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


Miniaturization is becoming a dominant theme in a large variety of technologies. With this increased miniaturization comes the need to familiarize undergraduate students from a variety of science and engineering students with such technology. Unfortunately, most courses currently offered in micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) target graduate-level students or senior- level students with highly specialized backgrounds. Recently, eight faculty members from five different academic departments at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology collaborated to develop an introductory course in MEMS open to all science and engineering majors of junior standing. This course was team-taught and included a laboratory component, giving students hands-on experience with the processes involved in the fabrication of MEMS devices. This paper presents the results to date of this multidisciplinary faculty team’s efforts to make MEMS more accessible to a larger audience. In particular, the paper documents the development of the new course and its content, as well as the continuing evolution of its implementation.

I. Introduction

Starting out as the realm of solid-state physicists and electrical engineers, the silicon revolution quickly found its way into things non-electrical, such as miniaturized accelerometers and pressure sensors. This marriage of transistor technology with moving parts on the silicon wafer eventually became something much larger. Thus was born the field of Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, to which it is most commonly referred today. By 1996 an estimated MEMS product volume of US$2.28 billion existed. In recent years this may have grown to as much as US$9.03 billion with growth expected to continue, much of it in the area of optical communications, wireless communications and biotechnology. 1,2 Today’s MEMS also cover a wide array of applications including microscale gyroscopes, mass flow sensors, optical switches and displays, cell phone components, relays and ink-jet printer heads.

Despite this recent boom in MEMS and the fact that the field has actually been around for some twenty-odd years reaching a state of maturity in its own right, engineering institutions have only recently begun to teach it as a distinct field. More often than not, these courses have targeted graduate students or senior-level students with existing knowledge of solid-state physics and/or integrated circuit (IC) technology. The courses therefore tend to impart an extra degree of specialization to a set of students who otherwise have a rudimentary skill set in the field anyway. With miniaturization no longer restricted to IC technology, but reaching critical levels in seemingly disparate fields such as mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference &Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Adams, T. (2004, June), An Undergraduate Mems Course For Everyone Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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