Category Archives: education

LEGO serious play and Arizona State University’s nanotechnology* ethics and society project*

Arizona State University (ASU) is receiving a $200,000 grant for undergraduates to ‘play seriously’ according to an April 10, 2014 news item on Azonano,

ASU undergraduates have the opportunity to enroll in a challenging course this fall, designed to re-introduce the act of play as a problem-solving technique. The course is offered as part of the larger project, Cross-disciplinary Education in Social and Ethical Aspects of Nanotechnology, which received nearly $200,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Nano Undergraduate Education program.

An April 6, 2014 ASU news release, which originated the news item, provides more details (Note: Links have been removed),

The project is the brainchild of Camilla Nørgaard Jensen, a doctoral scholar in the ASU Herberger Institute’s design, environment and the arts doctoral program. Participants will use an approach called LEGO Serious Play to solve what Jensen calls “nano-conundrums” – ethical dilemmas arising in the field of nanotechnology.

“LEGO Serious Play is an engaging vehicle that helps to create a level playing field, fostering shared conversation and exchange of multiple perspectives,” said Jensen, a trained LEGO Serious Play facilitator. “This creates an environment for reflection and critical deliberation of complex decisions and their future impacts.”

LEGO Serious Play methods are often used by businesses to strategize and encourage creative thinking. In ASU’s project, students will use LEGO bricks to build metaphorical models, share and discuss their creations, and then adapt and respond to feedback received by other students. The expectation is that this activity will help students learn to think and communicate “outside the box” – literally and figuratively – about their work and its long-term societal effects.

This project was piloted, from the news release (Note: A link has been removed),

Fifteen engineering students enrolled in the Grand Challenge Scholar Program participated in a Feb. 24 [20??] pilot workshop to test project strategies. Comments from students included, “I experienced my ideas coming to life as I built the model,” and “I gained a perspective as to how ideas cannot take place entirely in the head.” These anecdotal outcomes confirmed the team’s assumptions that play and physical activity can enhance the formation and communication of ideas.

This is a cross-disciplinary effort (from the news release),

“Technology is a creative and collaborative process,” said Seager [Thomas Seager, an associate professor and Lincoln Fellow of Ethics and Sustainability in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment], who is principal investigator for the grant. “I want a classroom that will unlock technology creativity, in which students from every discipline can be creative. For me, overcoming obstacles to communication is just the first step.”

Seager’s work teaching ethical reasoning skills to science and engineering graduate students will help inform the project. Selin’s [Cynthia Selin, an assistant professor in the School of Sustainability and the Center for Nanotechnology in Society] research on the social implications of new technologies, and Hannah’s [Mark Hannah, an assistant professor in the rhetoric and composition program in the ASU Department of English] expertise in professional and technical communication will facilitate the dialogue-based approach to understanding the communication responsibilities of transdisciplinary teams working in nanotechnology. A steering committee of 12 senior advisers is helping to guide the project’s progress.

“Being a new scientific field that involves very complex trade-offs and risk when it comes to implementation, the subject of ethics in nanoscience is best addressed in a transdisciplinary setting. When problems are too complex to be solved by one discipline alone, the approach needs to go beyond the disciplinary silos,” said Jensen.

“As we train the next generation of students to understand the opportunities and responsibilities involved in creating and using emerging technologies that have the potential to benefit society, we need to advance our capacity to teach diverse stakeholders how to communicate effectively,” said Jensen.

I last wrote about play and nanotechnology in an Aug. 2, 2013 posting about training teachers how to introduce nanotechnology to middle schoolers. As for ASU, they’ve had a rich week with regard to funding, in an April 8, 2014 posting, i described a $5M grant for a multi-university project, the Life Cycle of Nanomaterials Network headquartered at ASU.

* Added ‘o’ to the nantechnology so it now reads correctly as nanotechnology and added a space between the words ‘society’ and ‘project’ in the head for this post.

Oxford’s 2014 Nanotechnology Summer School

Here’s some information about Oxford’s sixth annual nanotechnology summer programme from a March 25, 2014 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

The theme of the sixth annual Oxford Nanotechnology Summer School in 2014 will be ‘An Introduction to Bionanotechnology’.

Each year Oxford’s Nanotechnology Summer School focuses on applications of nanotechnologies in a different field. Comprising presentations from leading researchers and practitioners from the University of Oxford and beyond, the Nanotechnology Summer School is essential for anyone with an interest in these topics.

There’s more about the summer school on the University of Oxford’s Nanotechnology Summer School 2014′s course page,

This five-day intensive course provides a thorough introduction to the exciting and emerging field of bionanotechnology. Each of the five days of the Nanotechnology Summer School has a dedicated theme and is led by key researchers in the field. The course will be valuable to those seeking an introduction to current research and applications in the subject.

The first day of the Summer School gives an introduction to cell biology and bionanotechnology. The following four days focus on bioanalytical techniques; applied genomics and proteomics; nanoparticles, nanostructures and biomimetics; and the interaction of nanomaterials with biological systems, respectively.

The full Summer School programme will be as follows:

For those who like to know about the costs and attendance options (from the course page),


Summer School fees include electronic course materials, tuition, refreshments and three-course lunches. The price does not include accommodation. All courses are VAT exempt. There may also be some social events on certain days of the Summer School.

Student discounts

We offer a discounted fee to students in higher education. The student fee rate for five days of the Nanotechnology Summer School is £680.00. It is not possible to enrol online if you wish to take the course at a discounted rate. To apply at the discounted rate, please contact us for details: email [email protected].

Alumni Card-holders discount

Alumni Card-holders benefit from a 10% discount* on the Nanotechnology Summer School. If you wish to enrol, please remember to quote the code given in e-Pidge to ensure you receive your discount.

* This offer is subject to availability, cannot be used retrospectively or in conjunction with any other offers or concessions available from either the University of Oxford or the Department for Continuing Education.

Fee options

Programme Fee
Five Days – Standard Fee: £1340.00
Five Days – Student Fee: £680.00
One Day – Standard Rate: £295.00
One Day – Student Rate: £150.00

Here’s how you can apply,

Please note that we cannot accept applications from those who are under 18 years of age.

You can apply for this course in the following ways:

Apply online
enrol onlineto secure your place on this course now
Apply by post, email or fax
PDF application form PDF document.

Terms and Conditions (important: please read before applying) .
Guidance Notes (important: please read before applying) PDF document.

Good luck1

Simply Nano1, a nano teaching tool kit for 7th – 10th grades

A Swiss business (The Innovation Society)  has developed a nano teaching kit, according to a Nov. 7, 2013 news item on Nanowerk (Note: Links have been removed),

The new “SimplyNano1″ experimental kit is now also available in English and Russian in addition to German and French. Thus, the experimental kit is available internationally as nano-teaching tool to Anglo-Saxon and Russian schools. The new experimental kit “SimplyNano 1″ was developed by the SimplyScience foundation together with The Innovation Society, St.Gallen and is already in use at over 600 schools in Switzerland. The case contains experiments from the world of nanotechnology, for example a LEGO model of an atomic force microscope with the corresponding software.

The project partner, the SimplyScience Foundation can be found here.You will need either French or German language skills to read the material on their website.

Here’s a bit more about the SimplyNano 1 kit (from the news item),

In the first edition of the “SimplyNano 1″ experimental kit 850 kits were produced in German and French. In Switzerland the teaching tool is already used at 600 secondary schools. The response of teachers and schools is very positive and the demand is high. The experiments can be used in biology, chemistry or physics classes. The introduction of the “SimplyNano 1″ experimental kit is accompanied with teaching courses that demonstrate the use of the kit.

I have seen the kit on The Innovation Society website. The English language version is called: SimplyNano 1: nano box, while the others are identified in this fashion: SimplyNano1 (russian) and SimplyNano1 (french). I could not find the German language version of the kit was on the website Menu, under Training and Education where I found the other versions. There does not seem to be a store on the website, but there is a contact email link at the bottom of each kit’s webpage.

Nanotechnology-themed children’s and young adult’s books

Thanks to the Oct. 12, 2013 news item on Nanotechnology Now, I found out about two new series, of nanotechnology-themed books,

METCO Global released 11 new humorous/educational nanotechnology children books to educate and entertain young readers about nanotechnology

Marketed as, the six fully illustrated children books and five partially illustrated young adult books are designed to educate and entertain readers of all ages about the strengths and advantages of nanotechnology.

This new series focuses on two nanotechnology characters, Nano and Nana, who apply unique nanotechnology skills to overcome many of today’s ills and make the world a better place. Author, Mark Tomassoni said, “Nano and Nana encounter a full range of strange and powerful forces in remote areas of the nano-world. They apply their vast powers of super computing, genomics, biomechanics, and artificial intelligence to overcome illnesses, pollution, starvation, and intergalactic communication.”

I have checked out the website as I’m quite intrigued by this project. it’s a very engaging site and I think a lot of thought has been put into it. The artwork is delightful and the activities are fun (I still like to color on occasion). Still, I wish there had been more user testing of the website before publicizing the books in this way.

I appreciate that the author/publisher makes previews of his books available but I would like more information about Tomassoni’s perspective on the current state of nanotechnology especially given the titles of his children’s books (each of which features nanobots) and his comments highlighted in a passage above (” … vast powers of supercomputing genomics, …). The term, nanobot, is problematic since there are no nanobots. Nonetheless the term is used a lot in fiction/movies/tv and there’s a long tradition of fictionalizing science in ways that aren’t necessarily scientifically sound. My hesitation with this endeavor is that the books are meant to be educational and, shy of buying the books, there’s no way to tell if Tomassoni has made it clear that his version of nanotechnology is highly imaginative (It seems to have been influenced by the ‘singularity‘ community) and that there are no such things as nanobots.

Oddly, as of today (Oct. 14, 2013), you cannot purchase a book on Tomassoni’s website as the e-commerce capability is ‘under construction’. Plus, only the children’s books are available on his website. It is possible to buy at least some of the books, children’s and young adults, on in Kindle and/or paper editions.

Apply for Winter School at Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University

The deadline to apply for Arizona State University’s Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS-ASU) Winter School  is Oct. 1, 2013 and thankfully the applications isn’t too onerous (a CV, a 500-word statement, and two references (names and contactinformation).

Here’s more about the school from the Aug. 27,2013 CNS-ASU call for applications,

CNS-ASU is an NSF funded center studying the societal implications of emerging technologies such as nanotechnology. The winter school is a week-long immersion into the research methods and tools used by CNS faculty and researchers.
The school is designed for graduate students, post-docs and junior faculty studying the societal questions surrounding emerging technologies and is a great opportunity to meet likeminded researchers, both domestic and international, along with many of our affiliated faculty from ASU, Georgia Tech and the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
The winter school takes place at Saguaro Lake Ranch, about an hour east of ASU’s Tempe campus. Participants are only expected to pay travel costs from their home institution. Local transportation and room and board are taken care of by CNS-ASU.

You can get more details about the school and about applying on the CNS-ASU Winter School 2014 webpage.

CNS-ASU Nanotechnology Winter School

Applications should be sent by email to [email protected] with the subject: “Winter School.” Good luck!

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s NanoSpace online science ‘theme park’ and science literacy project wins web award

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s NonoSpace, which opened in Oct. 2012, was designed to improve science literacy according to the Oct. 18, 2012 news release,

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute today unveiled NanoSpace, an online “molecular theme park” populated with more than 25 games, activities, and animations to educate and excite young students about the world of atoms and molecules.

From playing “Who wants to be a Quindecillionaire?” in H2OPark, to solving the Polypeptide Puzzler in DNA Land, to button-jamming on Electronz and other retro-style games in the arcade, NanoSpace visitors are having too much fun to notice they’re also learning complex scientific topics.

NanoSpace is the latest platform from the Molecularium Project, which is the flagship outreach and education effort of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center. Many NanoSpace games and activities feature the characters Oxy, Hydra, and Mel from the Molecularium animated movies Molecules to the MAX! and Riding Snowflakes.

The mission of the Molecularium Project is to expand science literacy and awareness, and to excite audiences of all ages to explore and understand the molecular nature of the world around them. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and others, the project is a direct response to the challenge of inspiring more young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This is a significant workforce development issue, as the NSF estimates 80 percent of jobs created in the next decade will require some mastery of STEM.

“Science literacy—in every capacity—has never before been so important to our nation,” said Professor Richard W. Siegel, the Robert W. Hunt Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer and director of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center.  “We realize that not every kid wants to be a scientist, but learning the basics of science—involving molecules and atoms—is critical to the careers that will be available in the next decade, especially as the U.S. continues to fall behind. When learning is fun, it increases a child’s capacity to absorb and retain knowledge. That’s why we are excited to unveil NanoSpace. Kids are interacting, exploring, and having a great time while learning about atoms and molecules, and they are not even realizing they’re learning.”

This concept of “stealth education” runs through every aspect of the Molecularium Project. …

Almost one year later, it seems the project has been successful with its ‘stealth education’ concept, from a Sept. 25, 2013 news item on Azonano,

Faculty researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute were honored for their efforts in developing and creating the NanoSpace website, an online science “theme park” that aims to excite elementary and middle-school students about the world of atoms and molecules.

Rensselaer and NanoSpace received a “2013 Best of the Web” award from the Center for Digital Education, in the category of Higher Education Website.

The Sept. 24, 2013 Rensselaer news release, which originated the news item, describes the agency bestowing the designation,

The Center for Digital Education’s “Best of the Web” awards recognize and honor outstanding education websites. The awards are open to all education institution websites in the United States, including K-12 districts, schools, colleges, universities, teachers, multi-class, parent, and student websites. The Center for Digital Education is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy, and funding.

“Educational institutions are constantly tasked with creating quality websites and applications to deliver services and enhance learning,” said Kim Frame, executive director of the Center for Digital Education. “This year’s winners are cognizant of this challenge and have developed innovative models to increase learning and promote achievement via the use of technology. The center congratulates them for creativity and dedication toward excellence!”

I decided to take a look at the Center for Digital Education and found this on their About the Center webpage,

The Center for Digital Education (CDE) is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding. CDE advises the industry, conducts relevant research, issues white papers, and produces premier annual surveys and awards programs. CDE also hosts events for the education community. CDE’s media platform includes the quarterly Center for Digital Education’s Special Reports,, email newsletters and custom publications.

The rest of the page includes links to their sales, research, corporate, etc. divisions. This looks like a ‘for profit’ endeavour and awards like “2013 Best of the Web” are classic public relations ploys. One of  the most spectacular examples of this ploy are the Nobel prizes.

You can go directly to the NanoSpace website here (be prepared to sign up) or you can go diectly to the Molecularium project website to find out more about both.

Blind and visually impaired students introduced to nanotechnology

The US National Institute for Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) recently held a programme for blind and visually impaired students for the third year. According to a Sept. 20, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

In July 2013, 45 blind and visually impaired high school students from around the country gathered at Towson University for a weeklong event designed to expose them to science careers long believed to be impossible for the blind. Twenty of those students participated in an exciting educational program on nanoscale science led by NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) Project Leader Vladimir Aksyuk, who has participated in this event for the last three years, and CNST/University of Maryland Postdoctoral Researcher Kevin Twedt, who is visually impaired.

The NIST CNST Sept. 19,2012 news release, which originated the news item, offers details about the activities the students engaged in,

During six hours of hands-on activities spread over two days, the students learned the basics of size and scale, the metric system, and received an introduction to the nanoscale. They then learned the techniques scientists use to create and measure nanoscale structures. By probing canes against floor models of different shapes and sizes, they were exposed to how an atomic force microscope probe senses topographic changes on a surface. Using plastic models, they explored the structural relationships between carbon atoms forming either planar graphene or three-dimensional carbon nanotubes. Finally, by scanning a laser pointer across black shapes on white paper and using a photodiode with an audio output that got louder in white regions and quieter in dark regions, the students learned how a scanning electron microscope creates images by scanning a beam of electrons across a surface.

“Most of these students had never really considered careers in science or knew that they are possible for blind people,” says Twedt, who has had 20/200 vision since birth. “In a few days, the students gained an appreciation for the work scientists do and perhaps some will consider going into science later on.”

It’s exciting to see this more inclusive programming.

Teachers play with crayons while learning about nanotechnology at Stanford University

Stanford University’s Center for Probing the Nanoscale runs a program for middle school science teachers where they, over a period of a week, participate in lectures and more (from the Center’s Summer Institute for Middle School Teachers webpage),

Daily sessions focus on content lectures and inquiry-based modules that explicitly address California’s 5-8th grade physical science content standards. Teachers will also receive a hands-on activity kit with many fun activities that bring nanoscience into the classroom.

  • learn about nanoscience and nanotechnology in simple terms
  • develop and receive hands-on activities targeting CA 5-8th grade science content standards
  • interact with scientists at Stanford University
  • tour research labs and see instruments in action
  • receive a $850 stipend and professional development units ($550 after completion of SIMST, $300 after implementing a nano lesson in the classroom)

An Aug. 1, 2013 news item on Azonano provides a description of a “fun activity,”

After a lecture on nanofabrication, Maria Wang, associate director at Stanford’s Center for Probing the Nanoscale, handed out white paper, boxes of colored crayons, thick black crayons and pipette tips. …

Following Wang’s directions, the 13 teachers quickly got to work. Each filled a small square of paper with color, covered the color entirely with several layers of black crayon, then etched a design into the paper by pressing the pipette tip through the black layers to expose a colorful pattern – mimicking the plasma etching they had learned about in the lecture.

“These pipette tips are kind of high tech for this activity, but I think it’s neat to find any opportunity to introduce tools that we use in the lab to you,” Wang told the teachers, who were sitting at small tables in a classroom in the McCullough Building. “You can actually just use a paper clip as a low-cost solution in case you don’t have access to pipette tips.”

Michael Wilson, who teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade science at Stewart Elementary School in Pinole, Calif., said crayon etching, which is taught in art classes at his school, offered the possibility of injecting a “little science” into an art lesson.

“Now we can say this is why that happens,” said Wilson.

The crayon etching exercise, a demonstration of “top-down fabrication,” was one of a dozen hands-on activities scheduled during the July 22-26 [2013] summer institute.

The July 31, 2013 Stanford Report article by Kathleen J. Sullivan, which originated the news item, explains this program’s raison d’être,

David Goldhaber-Gordon, director of the center [Center for Probing the Nanoscale], said most elementary school students are excited about science, but lose interest or confidence in their ability to do science during the middle school years.

“Middle school science teachers are hungry for both subject area knowledge and for reinvigorating their passion for science,” said Goldhaber-Gordon, a Stanford associate professor of physics. “We select teacher participants primarily from schools with students who are traditionally underrepresented in science. In this way, we hope to impact the lives and decisions of thousands of students each year. More than ever today, as our economy is driven by scientific and technological developments, we need a scientifically literate populace. Middle school is a key time to reach students.”

Interestingly (to me), the center is a joint Stanford University/IBM Corporation project.

NanoHigh in New York State

I have much admiration for the State University of New York’s (SUNY) College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s (CNSE) outreach programs and this May 28, 2013 news item on Nanowerk highlights a particularly exciting one (Note: A link has been removed),

Governor [Mario] Cuomo today joined SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) and the City School District of Albany (CSDA) to announce that this year’s class of 23 Albany High School students have successfully completed the pioneering “NanoHigh” program. This program, which supports the Governor’s strategy to expand New York’s high-tech workforce through nanotechnology-based education, is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation – pushing the number of NanoHigh graduates to more than 100 since the program began in 2007.

Including this year’s NanoHigh class, 113 students have now graduated from the program since its inception. The nanotechnology curriculum is taught collaboratively at both Albany High School and at CNSE’s Albany NanoTech Complex. Taking place throughout the school year, the program also emphasizes opportunities for students from social groups that are typically underrepresented in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Students who take part in NanoHigh work with leading CNSE faculty and scientists in the college’s world-class laboratories and cleanrooms. They conduct hands-on experiments to explore a wide variety of nanotechnology-based applications, including integrated circuit technologies and nanoscale patterning and fabrication; nanobiomedical applications, such as innovations in nanomedicine and forensic DNA fingerprinting; clean energy technologies, such as dye-sensitized solar cells and ultracapacitors for energy storage; and nanoeconomics.

A ceremony to recognize the NanoHigh graduates was held at CNSE, with a new class scheduled to begin in the fall, allowing another group of 23 students to become engaged in the cutting-edge science of the 21st century.

You can learn more about NanoHigh here.