Educating and inspiring students through nanotechnology

(Nanowerk News) The U.S. Administration’s updated Strategy for American Innovation, released in October 2015, identifies nanotechnology as one of the emerging “general-purpose technologies”—a technology that, like the steam engine, electricity, and the Internet, will have a pervasive impact on our economy and our society, with the ability to create entirely new industries, create jobs, and increase productivity. To reap these benefits, we must train our Nation’s students for these high-tech jobs of the future. Fortunately, the multidisciplinary nature of nanotechnology and the unique and fascinating phenomena that occur at the nanoscale mean that nanotechnology is a perfect topic to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
A new video series being released today shows how it is possible to both educate and inspire students through nanotechnology. Nanotechnology: Super Small Science is a collection of videos, produced by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in partnership with NBC Learn, which describes six areas where nanotechnology has a significant impact, including advanced electronics, renewable energy, and human health. The content, intended for middle and high school students, was developed for classroom use in consultation with the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO). The videos will reach a potential audience of 9 million students across the country and highlights will be shared with the more than 200 NBC affiliate stations for use in news segments. The videos are now available on the NBC Learn website, as well as through NSF’s Science360 and
The Nanotechnology: Super Small Science series is just the latest example of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)’s efforts to educate and inspire our Nation’s students. Other examples include:
  • The Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes contest, hosted by the NSF and the NNI, challenges high school students to design nanotechnology-enabled gear for an original superhero. This contest has garnered the support of none other than Stan Lee, the co-creator of such legendary Marvel comic book characters as Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men! Submissions were due February 2, 2016; consult the contest web site for details
  • Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes
  • NNCO and the National Institute of Standards and Technology collaborated with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia to develop the middle school video series "Innovation Workshop: Nanotechnology", which was recently distributed nationwide. Students at Western Carolina University, with guidance from the NNCO, have created educational animations about nanotechnology that are featured on Science Matters, Community Idea Stations. These videos and animations are also available through
  • NNCO is expanding the teacher resources on and working with nanoHUB to develop a searchable database for nanoeducation. This portal addresses a critical challenge identified at the NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education (NSEE) Workshop: the difficulty educators face in finding appropriate lesson plans, laboratories, and other resources for teaching nanoscience and engineering in their classrooms.
  • NNCO is coordinating a growing, national Nano & Emerging Technologies Student Network. The network consists of student-run clubs at colleges and universities across the country that are focused on raising awareness of current and potential applications of emerging technologies, as well as promoting opportunities for student research and internships. The network will convene for the first time this summer at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference & Expo at the National Harbor in Maryland.
  • We in the Federal government look forward to working with colleagues from across the educational spectrum to promote STEM education and awareness of nanotechnology. If you’d like to share opportunities to advance nanoeducation, contact us at [email protected].
    Source: By Lloyd Whitman (Assistant Director for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy), Lisa Friedersdorf (Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office at the White House National Science and Technology Council)