Materials World Modules

An Inquiry & Design-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Program

MWM Introduces Relevance of Nano in Everyday Life at NSTA Chicago (Apr. 2015)

MWM participated in the 2015 NSTA’s national conference held in Chicago and presented a hands-on nanoscience/nanotechnology workshop on March 14, 2015. Dr. Matthew Hsu, MWM content developer, shared some ideas about connecting nanotechnology to using adhesives and heating stuff in a microwave oven that teachers could take home to their students to help them discover how nanotechnology is already working in their lives.

NSTA ch3He began the hour-long workshop with a brief introduction to the potential impact of nanotechnology and its key role in helping to solve global health, energy, and environmental challenges. The hands-on session focused on how nanoscale phenomenon is most critical in how and why everyday object stick or adhere to one another. After a short presentation on Newton’s adhesive glasses and other researchers’ ideas about contact forces between smooth, electrically neutral objects, it was concluded that adhesion actually occurs at nanometer distances via van der Waals interaction. Dr. Hsu then challenged the workshop teachers to apply the concept of van der Waals forces acting over nanoscale distances to make things stick. Teachers were given two glass slides and 2 sheets of thin PVC clear plastic films and duplicate Newton’s efforts in making glass slides to bond to each other.

NSTA ch1Dr. Hsu also introduced i-MWM’s interactive Intro. to the Nanoscale module by using the i-MWM on an iPad to guide another hands-on activity on the concept of surface area-to-volume (SAV) ratio. Teachers were given samples of powdered and coarse polymer crystals and investigate the effect of SAV ratio on the polymer’s water absorption properties.

In the third segment of the workshop presentation, teachers were shown a video of 5 different sized cheese cubes being heated in a microwave oven and asked to predict which cheese cube would melt first. As a take-home challenge, they were asked to use different-sized marshmallows or chocolates to challenge their students to think about which would melt first based on the SAV ratio of the objects.

Lastly, Dr. Hsu ended with a few slides showing how other similar i-MWM activities are in good alignment with the newly proposed NGSS & Common Core Math Standards. The workshop was very well received by those in attendance. One teacher commented, “I attended your NSTA workshop on "Introduction to Nanoscale". It was *awesome*--thanks so much for putting it together! Thanks again for a wonderful workshop--it was really fun!”


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