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Electrical & Mechanical Engineering Students Win Contest for Seventh Time

Semaphore Man leads Texas Tech to another microelectromechanical victory.

Written by Karin Slyker

Semaphore Man

Semaphore Man

For the seventh time, Texas Tech University electrical and mechanical engineering students won this year’s Educational Design Contest of the Sandia MEMS University Alliance Design Competition for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

Their winning design, the Semaphore Man, is an interactive educational tool that teaches science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts. The device acts as a flagger that moves his arms and legs to display a message, therefore students must learn to send the correct electrical signals to display the correct message.

“Semaphore Man can be used to teach number systems, variable bit rates, and the transmission of unique signals via multiple signaling schemas,” the students wrote in the project description. The device is about one-thirty-second of an inch tall.

The competition was hosted by the Southwest Center for Microsystems Education at the University of New Mexico and sponsored by Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and SPIE (formerly known as the Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers). The competition promotes interest in the design and manufacture of MEMS devices. It is part of an ongoing effort to share technology developed at SNL by students with faculty mentors. There are 30 colleges participating in this alliance.

MEMS technology is often overlooked due to its small size, but it is an integral part of many widely used items, such as smartphones.

The Texas Tech MEMS group was led by Tim Dallas, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. Lead designer Bryan Kahler and team members Courtney Pinnell, Steve Mani and Philip Henry designed the Semaphore Man.

“The students came up with a creative and engaging concept that will eventually be used for engineering demonstrations for K-12 students, as well as incorporated into Texas Tech’s MEMS courses,” Dallas said.

Texas Tech and Carnegie Mellon University, winner of the Novel Design Category, will both see their designs birthed in Sandia’s microfabrication facility, one of the most advanced in the world.

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Whitacre College of Engineering
The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925.

Approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 725 graduate students pursue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees offered through eight academic departments: civil and environmental, chemical, computer science, electrical and computer, engineering technology, industrial, mechanical and petroleum.

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