MEMS is the Word at Rio Salado College, Maricopa Community Colleges

By: Rick Vaughn, Ph.D

The Southwest Center for Microsystems Education (SCME), Rio Salado College, and Arizona State University have come together in a unique partnership to give students hands-on clean room opportunities while earning their hybrid (distance and in-class) Nanotechnology degree and/or certificate. The partnership allows for cost-effective delivery of essential skills for micro and nanotechnology at the community college level, with SCME providing support with curriculum, professional development, and educational modules and kits.

Rio’s involvement in micro and nanotechnology began with the appointment of Dr. Rick Vaughn as the Faculty Chair for STEM Initiatives in 2011. Work is underway to add a Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) program during the 16-17 academic year. For the MEMS course, students purchase a kit containing materials for lab that can be completed at home.
The latest technology, to be used in the MEMS program at Rio Salado College and ASU, is a fully-immersive 3D-rendered cleanroom environment. For the short term, students can use the virtual field trip (VFT) to experience the features, tools, and protocols in an authentic, working nanofab center. Longer-term plans are to integrate the software so that students can access tools remotely and to embed videos and labs.

Through the design, piloting, implementation, and now delivery of its nanotechnology program, Rio Salado College has received overwhelming support from both ATE centers and industry partners. Although it has been a long journey, the College is now poised to provide authentic experiences to train technicians via its unique hybrid delivery platforms.

Contact: Rick Vaughn,