NanoDay at Northwestern University (Mar. 2006)
News - Education Programs
Written by Sub Editor   
Saturday, 25 March 2006 09:06

March 22, 2006, Reported by Emma Tevaarwerk, Northwestern University

On March 22, 2006, thirty-seven fifth graders from St. Athanasius School came to Northwestern for the morning to participate in "NanoDay," a half-day of activities designed to spark student interest in nanoscience and technology. First, the students went to watch a variety of demonstrations lead by Profs Art Schmidt and Chandrasekhar. Students then went to a hands-on activity: building model LEGO ® atomic force microscopes (AFMs)!

The students were shown an example LEGO ® microscope, and told that they were going to build their own model microscope, similar in function but of unique design. The middle school students dove straight into the project, eager to create their own microscope. Several graduate students and postdocs floated around from group to group, answering questions and providing help when it was requested. Within the hour, each group had a unique LEGO ® model AFM microscope. These microscopes aren't just fun to look at, they also produce real data which can be graphed in Excel and interpreted. This is done by reflecting a laser off the back of a cantilever, onto a piece of graph paper. The laser serves to amplify the motion of the cantilever as it drags across the surface of the sample. Students begin by determining a zero point for the undeflected cantilever, and then measuring the laser motion as the sample is moved beneath the tip and causes the cantilever to rise and fall.

At the end of the activities, each student received a take-home "Try This!" Nanokit developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prof Chandrasekhar of the physics department and Emma Tevaarwerk of the National Center for Learning & Teaching in Nanoscale Science & Engineering (NCLT) coordinated the event. Graduate students and postdocs from the physics department and NCLT helped out, including Dima Ruzemtov (video), Paul Cadden-Zamindky, Johannes Pollanen, Casey Law, Jeremy Sepinsky, Sourav Chatterjee, and Genya Takeda. The event was sponsored by the Physics Department and the NCLT.

• NCLT postdoc shows middle schoolers how to measure with LEGO ® AFM. video Watch video clip (.mov)  | Download Quicktime Player

Components of a LEGO ® microscope build by
middle school students

Data plotted in chart


Schmidt demos
Professor Art Schmidt demos

Boy and girl working together

Boys with microscope

Group of girls take data using the LEGO ® microscope they have built


If you are interested in attending the next NanoDay at Northwestern, please contact administrator, or (847) 491 3607.

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Last Updated on Monday, 21 September 2009 13:52
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