A hands-on microfabrication project was developed and piloted for Louisiana Tech’s integrated freshman engineering curriculum. The project involves the design and fabrication of a simple nickel resistance temperature detector (RTD). The project is part of a series of hands-on projects being developed for the freshman engineering curriculum as part of a “Living with the Lab” concept that utilizes the BASIC Stamp Board-of-Education (BoE-bot) kit (a microcontroller-based robotics kit) to increase experiential learning. The project was piloted in two sections of a freshman engineering course taken by all engineering majors at Louisiana Tech. The temperature sensor was used by the students as part of a control systems project to monitor and control the temperature and salinity of a water tank. The project included the direct application of fundamental engineering topics as well as applied technical skills that are part of the freshman curriculum. It also provided an opportunity to introduce the students to some common microfabrication techniques. The RTDs were fabricated using optical lithography and etching of a nickel coated Kapton© film. Students designed the geometry of the RTD based upon the resistivity of nickel. They created masks patterns using a commercial CAD package. They participated in a lab demonstration of the processing steps in performing photolithography to create the RTD pattern on the nickel coated Kapton© film. They then used their BoE-bot microcontrollers to measure the resistance of their RTD sensors and to calibrate the sensors. The project is being refined to be implemented this next academic year for the entire freshman engineering student body.

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