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Introduction of CNC Milling to First-Year Engineering Students with Interests in Nanotechnology and Microfluidics

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

FPD II: Hands-on Curriculum in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.849.1 - 25.849.10



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Paper Authors


Scott Michael Abernathy Ohio State University

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Scott Abernathy is currently an undergraduate student studying mechanical engineering at the Ohio State University. He works for the First-year Engineering program as a Teaching Assistant and works with the nanotechnology and microfluidics design class.

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Barbara Elizabeth Carruthers Ohio State University

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Barbara Carruthers is a graduate Teaching Assistant at the Ohio State University's First-year Engineering program. She is currently pursuing her master's degree in mechanical engineering.

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Kayla Fay Presley Ohio State University


Paul Alan Clingan Ohio State University

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Engineering Education and Innovation Center

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Introduction of CNC Milling to First-Year Engineering Students with Interests in Nanotechnology and Microfluidics An early introduction to various prototyping and production technologies is important toengineering students’ education1. The skills learned in early engineering classes build a strongfoundation for students that keep them relevant in job markets and provide valuable knowledgethat can be applied in upper level engineering classes. As a result many universities have designprojects for their first-year students, allowing them to get hands on experience with the designprocess2. These classes vary in subject matter, but the goal is to let students have project-basedexperience that they can apply to problems they encounter in their futures. Computer automated machining is a valuable skill for many engineers, but education inthis subject is not widespread. Many engineering programs do not teach methods for automatedmachining to younger students, and some engineering disciplines may not learn these skills at all.While prototyping is now a common part of the design process, few students are able toconfidently create a machined physical model at the end of their college career. It is importantthat students of all engineering disciplines have knowledge of milling methods so that they mayutilize the technology in their careers3. A first-year design project course at a large, midwestern institution allows first-year,honors engineering students who are interested in nanotechnology and microfluidics, and haveidentified as chemical or biomedical engineers, get a hands-on design and research-basedexperience. The course is composed of a 2 group projects, one of which requires each student togenerate design ideas for a lab-on-a-chip in addition to a holder for the completed chip. Groupsthen use those ideas to create a final design, which will be used in a microfluidics researchproject. Throughout the design process, students collaborate with the instructors and teachingassistants about the advantages and disadvantages of their ideas, and go through a multi-stepdraft and redesign process until a final design is reached4. The students learn the basics of thecomputer aided drafting (CAD) and computer aided machining (CAM) methods needed formilling. In addition they learn about other ways of creating these types of molds, such aschemical vapor deposition. With this knowledge the students create parts to be used in their finalexperiments on a CNC milling machine. These skills build off of knowledge of CAD programstaught during the proceeding terms. Also students get experience with other modeling softwarepackages and to directly participate in the milling experience5. In addition to the lab-on-a-chip portion of the course, the class includes a theoreticalnanotechnology research project. During this project, students must design a device to delivermedication to human cells without damaging them. Part of the process for the project is to modelthe device and to estimate equipment-manufacturing costs. This is also supplemented by the lab-on-a-chip CAM experience discussed earlier. As part of their research, students are expected tofind the cost of milling their designs, as well as the cost of raw materials. Feedback about the processes used in the class is solicited from the students by online,anonymous journal entries, as well as end of the term course evaluations. Student reviews of thecourse are mostly positive, and at the end of the term they present their experimental findingsand research projects to members of faculty and industry6. For their micro-fluidics presentations,groups compete in a poster competition and are encouraged to bring their completed chips to thepresentation and explain them to the judges. For the presentations on the nanotechnology project,student groups prepare a formal presentation for judges and must discuss, among other things,the viability of their designs, including the price point of their devices. At the end of the class,there is usually some debate between students as to who gets to keep the completed chip andholder, as well as the documentation that accompanies each of their presentations.References1 Felix, Allison, and Edward P. Zovinka. 2008. "One STEP: Enhancing Student Retention Through EarlyIntroduction of Research for STEM Majors." Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly 29, no. 1: 30-35.2 Heylen, C., M. Smet, H. Buelens, and J. Vander Sloten. 2007. "Problem solving and engineering design,introducing bachelor students to engineering practice at K. U. Leuven." European Journal of Engineering Education32, no. 4: 375-386.3 MILLER, SANDRA J., RAJIV DOSHI, J. CRAIG MILROY, and PAUL G. YOCK. 2001. "Early Experiences inCross-Disciplinary Education in Biomedical Technology Innovation at Stanford University." Journal of EngineeringEducation 90, no. 4: 585-588.4 Gero, John S. 1990. “Design Prototypes: A Knowledge Representation Schema for Design.” AI Magazine 11, no.4: 26-365 Alemzadeh, Kazem. 2006. "A team-based CAM project utilising the latest CAD/CAM and web-basedtechnologies in the concurrent engineering environment." International Journal of Mechanical EngineeringEducation 34, no. 1: 48-70.6 Labossière, Pierre, and Luke A. Bisby. 2010. "Lessons Learned from a Design Competition for StructuralEngineering Students: The Case of a Pedestrian Walkway at the Université de Sherbrooke." Journal of ProfessionalIssues in Engineering Education & Practice 136, no. 1: 48-56.

Abernathy, S. M., & Carruthers, B. E., & Presley, K. F., & Clingan, P. A. (2012, June), Introduction of CNC Milling to First-Year Engineering Students with Interests in Nanotechnology and Microfluidics Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21607

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