Project Summary – Southwest Center for Microsystems Education
The University of New Mexico (UNM), in partnership with Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI), requests continuation funding for the Southwest Center for Microsystems Education, a regional Advanced Technological Education (ATE) center located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The disciplinary focus of the center is technician education for the Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS, or Microsystems for short) industry that will build on the accomplishments of the SCME, that started at CNM in 2004. The center will continue to increase the educational capacity of the region to produce technicians skilled in supporting microsystems research, design and commercialization, while increasing awareness in student populations of Microsystems career opportunities. The center will continue to provide professional development workshops for high school, community college and four-year college faculty, educational materials, and dissemination of hands-on kits that will bring elements of the cleanroom fabrication experience into the classroom. Some of the workshops will be hosted by UNM’s Manufacturing Training and Technology Center (MTTC), where faculty and students will build a working MEMS device.
Intellectual Merit: MEMS chips are found in a wide range of biotechnology, transportation, homeland security, and consumer product applications. Common examples include air bag systems, inkjet print heads, DLP televisions and projection systems, and inertial sensors found in cell phones and game controllers. The MEMS device market for 2008 is $8B and is expected to grow to $15B by 2012 (Yole, 2008, MANCEF Roadmap, 2nd Edition). MEMS typically contain an integrated set of otherwise disparate technologies (e.g., mechanics, fluidics, materials, energy, photonics, biology, etc.) that span the entire spectrum of STEM components. Moreover, MEMS is one of the last bastions of hands-on learning, as colleges and universities move to replace physical labs with computer stations and simulators. The challenge is to engage and develop an agile, well-educated workforce to support this growth and range of needed skills. This center is the only ATE center to focus on microsystems. Continued funding will enable it to expand workforce development efforts and broaden its impact. SCME faculty, staff, consultants and partners have many decades of combined research, development, commercialization, fabrication and teaching experience in Microsystems and related fields.
Broader Impact: Through a faculty development strategy that includes one-day, two-day, and week-long workshops, SCME staff have invested time and resources into training faculty who adapt and integrate MEMS education and training into the classes that they teach. To date, 224 educators from over 30 states have participated in MEMS workshops and short courses hosted by the SCME, MATEC, UNM, SIPI and CNM. Educators report having impacted over 2500 students in 18 states and delivered over 23,000 student-hours of instruction beyond the CNM and SIPI student impact. The center will continue to host workshops for approximately 80 faculty per year and provide classroom resources for these faculty to teach microsystems design and fabrication. UNM, CNM and SIPI serve student bodies with high Hispanic and/or Native American enrollments. SIPI will be a conduit that reaches out to tribal colleges across the U.S., to bring these students to Albuquerque for microsystems laboratory experience at the MTTC. SCME will reach out to community colleges nationwide that have an expressed interest in microsystems. And, SCME will reach out to secondary schools, as part of its MEMS awareness mission, by engaging secondary educators as MEMS cleanroom trainees, educational materials developers, and classroom adopters. SCME will provide a system to ensure that the U.S. microsystems industry is provided a highly skilled and educated workforce, through promulgation of educational materials, hands-on kits, professional development workshops, short courses, online courses and learning communities.