Uni High students create MEMS devices with MechSE professor
By: Joe Muskin
MechSE assistant professor Gaurav Bahl has developed activities in which high school students design and create paper MEMS (microelectromechanical) devices. He first tested the idea at the Girls Building Awesome Machines (G-BAM) camp in July 2013, and has been refining and expanding his curriculum, introducing it to nearly 100 students at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School (Uni High) on the Illinois campus.
Uni High students developed several different designs and discussed the characteristics of a successful design.
Uni High’s entire class of 65 subfreshmen spent two days in their science curriculum learning about accelerometers and how they are used in everyday devices like automobiles and cell phones. Using what they learned, they gathered paper, aluminum foil, tape, and other common objects to create and test their own accelerometer designs.
Bahl also introduced 25 seniors at Uni High to an engineering course about MEMS devices, and used paper and pencil to create devices to be used as scales to weigh an object—in this case, the number of pennies in a cup. The students developed several different designs and used meters to measure the resistance values of their circuits, which were then used to determine the stress on the paper, and therefore the number of pennies in a cup. The students compared designs and discussed the characteristics of a successful design.
“The students were engaged, which means that Dr. Bahl did a great job in piquing their interest!” said Elizabeth Westfall, an engineering and science teacher at Uni High.
Bahl plans to refine the lessons from Uni High with the goal of implementing them in area public schools.
MechSE assistant professor Gaurav Bahl teaches students how to create their own MEMS devices.