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Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) use microminiature sensors and actuators. MEMS technology provides the benefits of small size, low weight, high performance, easy mass-production and low cost. This article is the first part of a three-part series on MEMS sensors. In the present article, we provide a general introduction to MEMS sensing and the primary sensing techniques. Next, MEMS-based bio-medical sensors are explained. We consider MEMS devices that are: designed to detect triglycerides, c-reactive protein, and glucose, respectively; bio-inspired robotic fingers with tissue softness characterization sensors for pressure measurement during surgical procedures; for counting blood cells; acoustic sensors for 2-D sound source localization; pressure measurement sensors on the wings of an insect-like flying robot; and ultra-miniature sensors for intramuscular pressure measurement. The second part of the series will be dedicated to mechanical sensors. There, some related technologies of MEMS sensors will be discussed including compensation for environmental effects, the Casimir effect, and harvesting of energy for self-powered sensors. Also, the subject of sensor selection will be addressed. The third part will treat MEMS sensing in the thermo-fluid and electro-magnetic domains.