Developing a Design Pipeline for Micromachines

Are you interested in learning about the design process for micromachines like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and actuators for microrobots?

This project will focus on the design and layout of micromechanical devices. Layout is the CAD process for creating the files that are used to fabricate integrated circuits (ICs), microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), and other devices like those described in the opening. The process is very similar to PCB design. Layout for analog ICs and MEMS devices is typically manual, time consuming, and sensitive, compared to digital IC layout which is a highly automated and well controlled process. We aim to overcome these aspects through this new design process.

This project seeks to create a design pipeline that goes from analytical design and analysis to layout files in MATLAB that can be imported into a finite element analysis (FEA) tool for simulation and ultimately used in fabrication. In this way, we can automate parts of the layout process.

To start off, students will learn about and design test structures for use in standard fabrication processes in an effort to characterize these processes. Along the way we will also utilize open source software for viewing and verifying layout.

Essay prompt - What are you interested in learning about in this research project and what do you want to get out of the research experience? (1-2 paragraphs, <500 words)

Name of research group, project, or lab
Contreras lab
Why join this research group or lab?
  • Learn about and work with MATLAB and Ruby in a real world application
  • Learn about MEMS fabrication (device design, analysis, layout)
  • Open to students of all backgrounds and experience levels
  • See the representative publication for an example of a microrobot developed using an earlier version of this tool
Logistics Information:
Project categories
Mechanical Engineering
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

No particular skills necessary, this project has entry points at all levels. A background in the core physics courses and some E&M is helpful. Most work is computer-based and can be done remotely.

Students will be expected to keep excellent documentation.

The following time commitments will be expected of students per 1 unit of academic credit

  • One weekly meeting/1:1 work time with PI (1 hour)
  • One afternoon/evening of lab work (~2-3 hours)
Time commitment
Spring - Part Time
Academic Credit
Number of openings
Techniques learned
  • FEA
  • MEMS device design and the manufacturing process
  • Ruby (potentially, if interested in working closer with open source layout tool)
Contact Information:
Mentor name
Daniel Contreras
Mentor email
Mentor position
Principal Investigator
Name of project director or principal investigator
Daniel Contreras
Email address of project director or principal investigator
1 sp. | 0 appl.
Hours per week
Spring - Part Time
Project categories
Mechanical Engineering (+2)
EngineeringPhysicsMechanical Engineering