Texas Tech Wins Design Competition with Microscopic Chess Set

World’s smallest chess set and a microbarbershop win big at Sandia.

The world’s smallest chess board, about the diameter of four human hairs and designed by Texas Tech University engineering students, was a winner in this year’s design contest for novel microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), held in mid May at Sandia National Laboratories. A pea-sized microbarbershop, designed by students at the University of Utah, was the winner of the educational MEMS. The two winning teams will see their designs birthed in Sandia’s microfabrication facility, one of the most advanced in the world. The micro chess board comes with micropieces scored with the design of traditional chess figures. Each piece is outfitted with even tinier stubs that allow a microrobotic arm to move them from square to square. Space along the side of the board is available to hold captured pieces. Texas Tech’s team consists of Sahil Oak, Sandesh Rawool, Ganapathy Sivakumar and Ashwin Vijayasai, said Tim Dallas, team advisor and electrical engineering professor. The microbarbershop, intended to service a single hair, employs a microgripper, cutter, moveable mirror and blow dryer. This year’s contest participants also included the Air Force Institute of Technology, the universities of Oklahoma and New Mexico and the Central New Mexico Community College. The contest, open to institutional members of the Sandia-led MEMS University Alliance program, provides an arena for the nation’s student engineers to hone their skills in designing and using microdevices. Such devices are used to probe biological cells, arrange and operate components of telecommunications and high-tech machinery and operate many home devices. The contest helps develop a sense of the maximum and minimum displacement of a micro object, the amount of force needed to move it and the degrees of freedom needed for a part to accomplish its preset task. Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness. Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu. CONTACT: Tim Dallas associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas Tech University, tim.dallas@ttu.edu