The lab scene on the second
floor of Moench Hall is unlike any other at Rose-Hulman. Students and faculty
are clothed in white disposable uniforms, hats and boots or shoe covers.
Students also wear goggles for protection. No textbooks or paper is allowed in
the lab. Undergraduates are working in a "clean" environment. The measurements
they're taking are accurate to one micrometer. The accuracy is needed because
the patterns they're designing on thin silicon wafers are so small that students
must use microscopes to do their work.
The students are in the
new micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) lab which at the start of the spring
quarter. It supports the MEMS introductory class. The class is so popular with
students that even after the course was increased from one to two sections,
students were still turned away.
A $400,000 grant from
the W.M. Keck Foundation helped Rose-Hulman establish the MEMS program which is
highly interdisciplinary, according to its coordinator, Azad Siahmakoun,
professor of physics and optical engineering.
“Ten faculty from six academic departments are involved,” he said.
“MEMS is having an impact on virtually every area of technology,” he stated in
explaining the importance of the team teaching approach. The faculty worked with
20 student teams on silicon wafer processing during the spring quarter.
“Teaching MEMS at the
undergraduate level is so new that faculty have had to allocate additional time
to develop lectures and lab experiments,” according to Siahmakoun. The faculty
team will create a new textbook for use in the spring quarter next year.
opportunities for students extend even into the summer. Siahmakoun will work
with undergraduates on the development of a remotely-powered, wireless
microphone that would be the size of the tip of a pen.
An advanced MEMS
course will be offered during the next academic year. Students will move from
fabrication and applications they learned in the introductory course to modeling
and packaging MEMS technology. To view a live Web cam of activities in the MEMS
lab click on