Yes, at some camps. We are moving into this area of developing ways for students to access Atomic Force Microscopes and Scanning Electron Microscopes. Some groups at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been able to remotely use the AFM at Penn State.
We had a group of high school students come in and use our AFM and our SEM microscopes at Georgia Tech. These microscopes allowed the students to go down and look at miniscule amounts of matter. We are also looking at ways to use remote access to these microscopes, too.
Penn State has an animation of how a scanning electron microscope is used. This animation, Amazing Creatures with Nanoscale Features, is an introduction to microscopy, scale, and applications of nanoscale properties. It introduces some of the tools that are used by scientists to visualize samples that are smaller than what we can see with our eyes. This activity is available for use via the Center's Web site at http://www.cneu.psu.edu/edToolsActivities.html.
I learned that one college had a nanotechnology career day and it attracted more than 300 school-age students. The NNIN also has career days. What are some of the advantages for students to attend these kinds of career day events?
We do something called Nanoinfusion at Georgia Tech. This event is pretty much like a career day. At one of these events, we had about 375 eighth grade students split between 2 days for about 4 hours each day.
The activities of a nano career day, or field trip to a facility, depends on which facility they visit and the duration of the visit. Typically there are hands-on activities and demonstrations, lectures, and tours. The advantage of all these nano career days is that it gets kids on a college campus, and for many, to see a college campus for the first time. While on campus, the students can interact with graduate students and faculty members. To excite students, the career day should have a tie-in with something that has real-world applications which is what we strive to provide our visitors.
Diana Palma, the Assistant NNIN Education Coordinator at Georgia Tech, is the one who developed and organized Nanoinfusion. She can keep 150-175 kids busy during a 3-4 hour visit. The students visit our facility and they go to a series of stations that are set up where they get to see either a demonstration or do a hands-on activity at each station. Then they move on in groups to experience different things, such as a cleanroom tour or a laboratory tour. For the first Nanoinfusion, we had 15 research labs on campus participate and 70 volunteers to assist the students. At the end, we may have them create an advertising piece or commercial based on a nanotechnology product that they have seen or a possible product from someone's research. They get exposed to a whole range of things during their visit.
NNIN has featured on its Web site a number of features that are directed to students and teachers. A partial list includes Nanotechnology Careers, Nanotechnology Tools, Nanotechnology Products, Seeing Nanostructures and even a children's science magazine called Nanooze. Is the NNIN planning to add any additional educational topics?
We are planning on a few more features and to provide additional nan-otechnology educational units on the NNIN Web site for K-12 teachers.
What would your advice be for high school students who wish to explore a career in nanotechnology?
At the high school level, students need to take a minimum of 3 years of science and mathematics. They need to explore some of the career and educational options that are available in this field. I wish more states would duplicate the program at Penn State. Penn State has a special program where students can obtain a two-year degree in nanotechnology (at a local community college with a capstone semester at Penn State) and then go on to a 4-year program if they want to pursue further education. Students should know that they do not need to have a Ph.D. degree to work in the field of nanotechnology research. As with any field, there are all kinds of opportunities. At the technical level, they could be maintaining vacuum pumps in a lab or learning how to do different fabrication processes in the cleanroom. You can be a lawyer and be involved with nanotechnology perhaps as a patent lawyer. You can be a graphic artist or a businessperson on the entrepreneurial side. But you need to have some basic understanding of the interactions of all the sciences and engineering. One of the units we have up on our Web site, which is our nanoproducts unit, includes an extension activity on careers. The unit provides the students with a number of sites they can visit to explore career opportunities. We eventually plan to have on our Web site a whole unit on exploring nanotechnology careers.
You can visit the NNIN Web site at: http://www.nnin.org
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