Experimental MEMS device

With help from Assistant Professor Dr. Reza Rashidi and fellow student Trevor Michelson, recent Alfred State graduate Alex Bailey was able to develop an experimental microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) device to demonstrate that an applied learning approach to MEMS education at the undergraduate level is effective and necessary. Bailey will present the results of this work at the upcoming American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Virtual Conference in June.

ALFRED — Recent Alfred State graduate Alex Bailey, engineering science, Bath, will present the results of an applied learning project that he and two others worked on at the upcoming American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Virtual Conference in June.

The title of the project is “An Undergraduate Hands-On Approach to Microfabrication Applied Learning Towards Developing a Silicon-Based Microfluidic Pressure Sensor Array.”

Bailey was assisted on the project by Trevor Michelson, mechanical engineering technology, Bethpage, and Dr. Reza Rashidi, an assistant professor in the Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology Department.

According to its abstract, the project involves an accelerated applied learning approach to the fabrication of a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) 5-by-5 pressure sensor array. A potential application of this device would be in microfluidic lab-on-a-chip devices where pressure sensing is required at various locations of the microfluidic channels.

“The microfabrication processes required for producing such devices usually require essential knowledge in different areas of mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering, and these skills may not be possible to be achieved with traditional learning cycles,” the abstract states. “In addition, these emerging processes are usually taught to graduate students who have already mastered the fundamentals of engineering.”

Currently, students wishing to prepare for the MEMS industry would need to land an internship at a MEMS foundry or attend graduate school and study MEMS with research. In either case, a student may not get the internship or be able to go to graduate school.

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While some undergraduate courses in MEMS do exist, they are introductory in nature and are not considered sufficient for industry preparation. This is unfortunate, as there is an identified shortage of skills entering the MEMS industry.

Educators are now faced with the problem of preparing engineering students for the MEMS industry without depending on graduate school courses or internships. Also, the few existing undergraduate MEMS courses have no applied learning involved that would provide the appropriate level of MEMS experience that employers seek.

As a result of the need for a semester-long, hands-on approach to MEMS at the undergraduate level, Bailey’s project was born. In this research, Rashidi designed an accelerated, hands-on approach to get Bailey up to speed in this field in a short amount of time. The idea behind this research was to find the most efficient way of microfabrication learning within an academic semester rather than simply developing a device.

Rashidi assisted Bailey with the device ideation, design, fabrication process flow, and other areas where needed. Michelson, meanwhile, served as a lab assistant and helped Bailey with fabricating the device in the college’s Micro-Nano Fabrication Laboratory in the Engineering Technology Building.

After assessing both the proposed teaching method and the device, it was determined that the successful creation of the device by the student indicates that an applied learning approach to MEMS is applicable in an undergraduate environment and can produce MEMS experience relevant to industry needs.