Project Examples

Explaining Nanotechnology S '07

Course: 25.108 Introduction to Engineering II (Plastics Engineering)
Semester: Spring 2007
Instructor: Carol Barry
Partner:University of Massachusetts Lowell - Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN)

The students (in teams) were asked to develop new hands-on activities for the Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN)’s outreach program to extended day program at the Bartlett Middle School in Lowell, MA.

The freshmen were first introduced to the nanoscale and the differences in properties at the nanoscale, selected nano products, and the societal impact issues associated with nanotechnology. A service learning-oriented laboratory session allowed the students to test current K12 outreach activities from the Bartlett School Program, including activities on scale, measurement at the nanoscale, nanotextiles, and ferrofluids. Two weeks later, the students were given an overview of injection molding at the nanoscale; then they presented their modules to Carol Barry and CHN’s Bartlett School outreach leader, Rinky Devre. Specifics: Mandatory module requiring two 50-minute lectures plus two 110-minute laboratory sessions, separated by two weeks. The S-L project counted for about 16% of the course grade.

Learning objectives met by the S-L project were for students to:

  • Provided opportunities for students to get to know a wide variety of department faculty, including Carol Barry
  • Introduction of different concepts in plastics engineering, including nano-technology
  • A better understanding of what constitutes effective communication in terms of a technical concept through a teaching module

Community objectives met by the S-L project:

  • Field-testing of middle school modules to introduce nano-technology concepts
  • Development of new modules to increase effectiveness
  • CHN outreach by implementation of the modules at the Bartlett School extended day program

The timing and connections in this project, however, were much better than with CHN’s project in spring 2006. As a result, the projects were excellent. All were ready for use in the Bartlett School program and the teams provided instructions for creating more of these units. Overall, CHN was very happy with this S-L project and will sponsor another S-L project – probably aimed at illustrating specific nanomanufacturing concepts - in spring 2008.