Nano Learning at NVC Takes on Big Issues

Nano Learning at NVC Takes on Big Issues

Will you ever have stitches again, or does the future belong to the Gecko Bandage? Are we on the verge of finding a cure for cancer with gold nanoshells/infrared light or doing a full medical diagnosis from a single drop of blood?  

Educators and students from the San Antonio area explored these questions during the 2014 summer nanotechnology workshops held June 16-20 on the NVC campus. Nanotechnology involves measurements that are down to the nanoscale - where the width of a human hair is 1,000-10,000 times bigger than the item being measured. 

Nano Learning at NVC Takes on Big Issues

Ten secondary educators came together to learn about high-tech experiments that they can easily implement into their classroom. Hands-on activities included: 

  • Gummy capsules (nanoencapsulation for drug delivery),
  • Magic sand (superhydrophobic spill-resistant fabric); and
  • MicroElectroMechanical devices (tiny MEMS pressure sensors) and cantilevers (Lab-on-a-Chip medical diagnostics).  

Qiaoying Zhou, Ph.D, NVC Nanotechnology coordinator, is working with Penn State University’s Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK) Network and the University of New Mexico’s Southwest Center for Microsystems Education (SCME) to make nano-related kits readily available for students and teachers. 

The NACK Network also offers the opportunity for teachers and high schools students to gain remote access into million-dollar equipment for nano-based analysis, such as scanning electron microscopes. 

Nano Learning at NVC Takes on Big Issues

One educator said,  "I have been able to use the remote access program from Penn State for the past three years. My students are excited and look forward to talk with the scientists and do all kinds of measurements on the computer.”

Along with the teachers, 20 students representing local San Antonio high schools also spent time with hands-on experiments, including the gummy capsules and magic sand, but their group explored additional nano-experiments, such as:

  • Nano-based sunscreen (better UV protection),
  • Oobleck (shock absorption is impressive); and
  • Gecko bandages (no more stitches).  

Students took the experiments a step further, by presenting a sales pitch for their nano-experiment of choice (think “Shark Tank” meets “The Apprentice,” minus the swearing). They successfully conveyed the science with a positive twist that fully engaged the audience. The future holds much promise and these bright students will be part of that story.

Contributed by Robert K. Ehrmann, Managing Director of Center for Nanotechnology Education & Utilization at Pennsylvania State University, Nanofabrication Manufacturing Technology Partnership, NSF National Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK) Network