The 18 mm2 laboratory: Teaching MEMS development with the SUMMiT foundry process

Tim Dallas, Jordan M. Berg, Richard O. Gale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This paper describes the goals, pedagogical system, and educational outcomes of a three-semester curriculum in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The sequence takes engineering students with no formal MEMS training and gives them the skills to participate in cutting-edge MEMS research and development. The evolution of the curriculum from in-house fabrication facilities to an industry-standard foundry process affords an opportunity to examine the pedagogical benefits of the latter approach. Outcomes that are assessed include the number of students taking the classes, the quality of work produced by students, and the research that has emanated from class projects. Three key elements of the curriculum are identified: 1) extensive use of virtual design and process simulation software tools; 2) fabrication of student-designed devices for physical characterization and testing; and 3) integration of a student design competition. This work strongly leveraged the university outreach activities of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and the SNL SUMMiT MEMS design and fabrication system. SNL provides state-of-the-art design tools and device fabrication and hosts a yearly nationwide student design competition. Student MEMS designs developed using computer-aided design (CAD) and finite element analysis (FEA) software are fabricated at SNL and returned on 18-mm die modules for characterization and testing. One such module may contain a dozen innovative student projects. Important outcomes include an increase in enrollment in the introductory MEMS class, external research funding and archival journal publications arising from student designs, and consistently high finishes in the SNL competition. Since the SNL offerings are available to any US college or university, this curriculum is transportable in its current form.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-537
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Educational technologies
  • Finite element methods
  • MEMS
  • Microelectromechanical systems
  • Microfabrication


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