Because the study of "itsey-bitsey, teeny-weenie, super-duper small things," or nanotechnologies have the potential to transform the way we live getting the next generation excited about the role they'll play in shaping our nano future is a challenge that the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska(CLCA) has taken up.
For the second year the ALCA received a grant from the National Science Foundation to participate in NanoDays. NanoDays is a nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering and its potential impact on the future. NanoDays events are organized by participants in the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE) "NanoDays engages people of all ages in learning about this emerging field of science, which holds the promise of developing revolutionary materials and technologies," explained Kathy East curriculum director for the CLCA. "There are a lot of applications that we use everyday that we might not think about that work on a molecular level and as things get smaller they behave differently, so during our NanoDays we looked at things such as thin film that is used in computer parts or protective coatings on eye glasses and clothing. Sun block for instance has nanoparticles that reflect the sun and keeps you from getting sun burned and all that is on the molecular level which was our goal at NanoDay to get people to realize what is happening on a molecular level in all the technologies we use everyday," said East.
Even things like a blue butterfly aren't blue at all, "It has to do with the little stretcher on their wings that reflect certain colors of light but they aren't actually blue at all. We had several kids that were amazed to see phenomenon happening right before their eyes. I had some powder I called my magic powder that you put in with water and all of a sudden in solidifies and makes little sticks sit up straight, it looks like magic but it's only things happening on the nano level that causes these behaviors. We even lit-up a small light bulb that was just connected to a pencil mark to show how simple graphite is being used in nano-technologies to replace gold as a conductor and lubricants because of their molecular movements," said East.
Families and kids who attended NanoDay learned about new career opportunities also that are developing in the nano field. "If we get the youngsters excited at an early age about science hopefully they'll go on to discover some amazing things in their lifetime," she said. The CLCA hopes to get a grant for a permanent Nano exhibit at the Center to be shared with the Alaska Museum of Natural History. Coming up next at the CLCA are summer camps, "This year we have an array of new camps in addition to our regular space camps we'll have a CSI camp, a food science camp, a sports camp and camps for ages K-12 with a couple of camps where high school students will be able to earn credits toward their degree," said Kathy. For more information about the CLCA and summer camp registration log on to www.akchallenger.org