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Posted: August 1, 2007
Teaching nanotechnology through child's play
(Nanowerk News) As governments and corporations around the world continue to increase investments in nanoscale research and development, there is an alarming decline in the number of students who choose to pursue studies in science and technology. Educators and government officials, as well as organizations that will require increased access to highly-educated, technical employees in the next few decades agree that innovative approaches are needed to attract today’s students back to the sciences.
As sponsor of two modules (NanoScaling and NanoImaging) in the new NanoMission™ series of video games, Oregon-based FEI Company is part of an innovative solution designed to inspire young gamers as they adventure into the amazing and action-packed world of the nanoscale. The series is produced by London’s PlayGen, founded by gaming industry experts in 2001 to enhance players’ lives by educating while entertaining them through interactive environments based on real science.
News Image “Our main objective with NanoMission is to inspire children about the world of nano-sciences and its possibilities,” explains Kam Memarzia, PlayGen’s managing director. “We use exciting gaming mechanics to stimulate the player’s sense of discovery and actively engage them in trying to better understand the nano world in a fun and motivating setting.”
NanoMission’s focus has also attracted the support of Cientifica, a leading European-based nanotechnology association, and The Wellcome Trust, the UK’s largest charitable organization that funds innovative biomedical research globally.
“The falling numbers of science and engineering students in western Europe and the United States will have a real economic impact in an increasingly technology dependent society,” comments Tim Harper, director of Cientifica and project advisor to the game series. “It is vitally important that the technology community supports projects such as NanoMission to ensure that our economies remain competitive in the 21st century.”
The NanoScaling game enables players to visualize and understand spatial relationships between objects ranging from giga-meters (diameter of the sun) all the way down to pico-meters, the diameter of hydrogen and other atoms. The second game in the series, NanoImaging, sends players on an exciting mission to image (using scanning electron microscopy or SEM technology), identify and destroy dangerous organisms that are destroying lakes and rivers. It features FEI’s recently released Phenom™ – the world’s smallest and easiest-to-use tabletop SEM.
The third game in the series, NanoMedicine, is funded by The Wellcome Trust. It takes gamers on a white-knuckle, nanoscale adventure though the human body to efficiently kill deadly cancer cells without harming healthy tissues. Millions of red blood cells and antibodies need to be avoided along the way.
“We are extremely gratified to be a sponsor of this exciting and important project,” said Don Kania, FEI’s president and CEO. “As the leading global supplier of advanced Tools for Nanotech, we have an obligation to not only anticipate and meet the requirements of today’s researchers and developers, but to help ensure that there is a future generation prepared and ready to pick up the challenge and continue making nanoscale discoveries and advancements.”
“Today’s students are so visually driven and demand high speed data,” said Sean Murdock, executive director of the NanoBusiness Alliance in the U.S. “They need to actually see something and interact with it before they are driven to learn about it. FEI’s sponsorship of these video games is another clear example of its pioneering approach and commitment to the industries it serves.”