Published in 2006 ASEE Annual Meeting, June 18, 2006. © 2006 ASEE.
In response to the need to create a skilled workforce in nanotechnology and to excite young students with the wonders and potentials of science, the National Center for Learning and Teaching in Nanoscale Science and Engineering, is developing educational materials for grades 7 – 16. Learning theory and cutting-edge research are used in the development of modules on nanoscience and nanotechnology. This paper describes the rationale for such materials and describes an introductory module in which students are lead through a series of inquiry-based and hands-on activities, which lead to a design project. Its goal is to teach an underlying principle in nanoscience and nanotechnology—the significance of the surface-area-to-volume ratio as objects get very small. The first section of the module investigates how the physical form of a material can influence the degree to which an object interacts with its environment. Different forms of different materials (steel, superabsorbent polymer, and sugar) are investigated as a function of dimensionality and size. The second section is centered on math tools needed to express very small quantities, viz., powers of 10 and scaling, and we intend that students get a feel for how small “nano” is. Shape and size effects on surface areas and volumes are explored in the third section. Graphs illustrate how the surface area to volume ratio changes with size. Consequences of such a trend are discussed in readings about nature and new technologies. The culminating event is an open-ended design project that incorporates the concepts from the previous activities and facilitates engineering design skills. Preliminary field testing has yielded both qualitative and statistical results.
Materials Science and Engineering