Project Examples

Testing Nano-technology Modules

Course: 25.108 - Introduction to Engineering II (Plastics Engineering)
Semester: Spring 2006
Instructor: Carol Barry
Partner:UML Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN)

Brief Description:

The CHN is an NSF funded initiative of three partnering universities (UML, UNH & Northeastern) to generate new knowledge specific to template-directed assembly at high-rate, high yield nanomanufacturing. As part of their mission, the CHN provides outreach to local middle schools. Modules for middle-school students had been developed. CHN requested that the first year Plastics Engineering Students field-test the developed modules.

Full Description:

The CHN is an NSF funded initiative of three partnering universities (UML, UNH & Northeastern) to generate new knowledge specific to template-directed assembly at high-rate, high yield nanomanufacturing. As part of their mission, the CHN provides outreach to local middle schools. Modules for middle-school students had been developed. CHN requested that the first year Plastics Engineering Students field-test the developed modules. The NSF-funded Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) was planning to use these activities for an experimental extended day program at the Bartlett Middle School in Lowell, MA. CHN collected feedback from the students to prepare the modules for implementation. Then the module considered most suitable was implemented in the Bartlett School in Lowell. However, in the end, the extended day program at the Bartlett Middle School was not continued after May 2006, but CHN will use the freshmen’s suggestions in other K-12 outreach activities that CHN will implement during the 2006-2007 academic year.

The Center for High-rate Nano-manufacturing (CHN) middle school modules on Nano technology had been designed but never tested out to be certain they worked as intended. The first year Introduction to Engineering II Plastics Engineering Students tested the modules and provided feedback to CHN. This course introduced freshmen in plastics engineering to many of the faculty and a range of topics including materials, processing, and design. The module “Nanotechnology” introduced students to nanoscale, differences in properties at the nanoscale, selected nano products, and societal impact issues associated with nanotechnology.

In a service learning-oriented laboratory session, students were asked to test and suggest modifications to two K-12 outreach activities: 1) “Nanosmores and Photolithography” from Cornell University’s Main Street Science (http://www.nbtc.cornell.edu/mainstreetscience/kitlib/) and 2) “Societal Implications of Technology,” from the Institute for Chemical Education and University of Wisconsin-Madison’s NSEC (author: Andrew Greenberg). In their one to two page-long laboratory reports, freshmen students freely commented on the exercises – they particularly liked having chocolate and marshmallows at 9:30 in the morning - and suggested a number of practical improvements for the “Nanosmores and Photolithography” exercise. Students were less enamored of the “Societal Implications of Technology” exercise, but some students made suggestions for improving this activity. In the end, CHN implemented the “Nanosmores and Photolithography” module at the Bartlett Middle School on the same day the freshmen tried the module. John Shearer, the primary teaching assistant for CHN’s Bartlett Middle School program, however, sat with the freshman during the laboratory and was able to use some their verbal suggestions in the afternoon extended day program. Based on the freshman students’ responses to the “Societal Implications of Technology” activity, we decided not to try the exercise with the middle school students.

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
  • Improvement in modules to increase effectiveness
  • CHN outreach by implementation of one the modules at the Bartlett School