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MEMS-based Educational Laboratory

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning through Laboratory Experiences

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.897.1 - 24.897.12



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Paper Authors


Tim Dallas P.E. Texas Tech University

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Tim Dallas is a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas Tech University. Dr. Dallas’ research includes MEMS packaging issues with an emphasis on stiction. In addition, his research group designs and tests SUMMiT processed dynamic MEMS devices. His MEMS group has strong education and outreach efforts in MEMS and has developed a MEMS chip for educational labs. His group uses commercial MEMS sensors for a project aimed at preventing falls by geriatric patients. Dr. Dallas received the B.A. degree in Physics from the University of Chicago and an MS and PhD from Texas Tech University in Physics. He worked as a Technology and Applications Engineer for ISI Lithography and was a post-doctoral research fellow in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas, prior to his faculty appointment at TTU.

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MEMS-based Educational LaboratoryThe advent and widespread utilization of micro and nanotechnologies necessitates thedevelopment of innovative instructional and research tools that will educate the next generationof engineers and scientists. Teaching micro and nano scale technologies is often challenging andexpensive due to the cost and complexity of typical systems that are utilized to access the microand nano realm. Interesting and cost effective systems will allow many more students toexperience the micro and nano regimes, thereby piquing curiosity and interest, and eventuallyleading to more individuals pursuing technology-based education and careers.In this work we discuss the Class on a Chip System, which has four main components: packagedMEMS chip, driver board/control electronics, graphical user interface, and laboratoryexperiments. The system provides a relatively low cost MEMS experimentation platform whichcan be utilized through a reasonable contingent of laboratory tools (microscope and personalcomputer) available at most educational institutions. Various Microelectromechanical Systems(MEMS) are used to teach fundamental physics and engineering knowledge, as well as illustrateimportant micro and nano scale concepts which are accessible to students at many educationallevels and in various disciplines and classes. The Class on a Chip System advances STEMeducation in a novel and interesting way that broadens the appeal of science and engineering.The chip contains numerous devices that allow many experiments to be conducted that arerelevant to students in engineering as well as physics.The MEMS chip (6mm x 3mm) is built using a foundry process at Sandia National Labs. Morethan 15 devices are available for conducting on-chip experiments, as shown in Figure 1. Figure 2shows a picture of the chip mounted in a socket and attached to a power supply that is controlledusing a graphical user interface. Prominent devices include the chevron electrothermal actuatorsshown in the SEM image of Figure 3(a), and a micro-clock [Figure 3(b)] containing a dozengears and a micro-motor that is 1mm in diameter. The micro-clock occupies an area of 2mm x2mm and makes an excellent demonstration tool, allowing students of all ages to be drawn intothe micro-realm. A LabVIEW based graphical user interface (Figure 4) allows users to controlthe devices and watch the actuation through a digital microscope using the same monitor.In the paper, we will provide additional details on the MEMS devices used in the educationalexperiments. Discussion will include the implementation of the system in MEMS courses1, aswell as how demonstrations, for a wide-range of grade levels (K-16), lead to micro/nanolearning. The technology is amenable to remote access, which has opened new avenues fordistance education2. Figure 1. MEMS Education chip.Figure 2. CoaC system including PCB/enclosure(black box) with MEMS Education chip andcustom power supply. Figure 4. Graphical user interface for the micromotor and gear. The digital microscope and monitor size produce 500X magnification which is sufficient for quantifying motion during experimentation. References 1. “The 18mm2 Laboratory: Teaching MEMS Development with the SUMMiT Foundry Process,” T.Figure 3. SEM images of (top) an array of Dallas, J. Berg, and R. Gale, IEEE Transaction onelectrothermal actuators, and (bottom) micro- Education 55, pp. 529-537 (2012).Clock. The clock fits in an area of 2mm x 2mm 2. “Remote Access MEMS Lab,” G. Ramachandran,and is driven by a 1mm diameter motor. A. Vijayasai, G. Ramirez, and T. Dallas, Innovations 2012, (iNEER), p. 172.

Dallas, T. (2014, June), MEMS-based Educational Laboratory Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22830

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