STEM-driven NanoDays will bring the world of small to Discovery Park on April 15-17

April 9, 2015  


Students and teachers from across the state will participate in NanoDays 2015 April 15-17 at Purdue University's Discovery Park. The event for students and teachers in grades 4-12 introduces the principles of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through hands-on learning activities and programs at Birck Nanotechnology Center. (Purdue University photo/Tanya Faltens)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Young students will get up close and personal with the world of the incredibly small at Purdue University's 2015 edition of NanoDays on April 15-17 at the Birck Nanotechnology Center.

The high-end research center in Discovery Park will be buzzing with special activities and learning opportunities for the hundreds of registered young K-12 students, teachers and parents during the fifth annual NanoDays.

"Our faculty, students and staff at the Birck Nanotechnology Center are thrilled to once again welcome hundreds of young and enthusiastic students to the world of nanotechnology. We are excited to introduce this growing, innovative field to young scholars," said Birck deputy director Dimitrios Peroulis, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering.

Co-sponsored by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, NanoDays is a nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering and its potential future impact. The event gives local students a chance to learn about an exciting new STEM field that other students are typically not exposed to until college.

"Nanomaterials are everywhere in our lives in unexpected ways and have become a key part of the many technological advances in our world with exciting breakthroughs around every corner,” Peroulis said.

Lead organizer Swati Pol, a research assistant and outreach and engagement officer at Birck, said NanoDays 2015 is a collective effort across the Purdue campus with nearly 150 undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines at the center participating.

"This outreach activity gives them a unique experience of interacting and explaining the 'nano-concept' to general audience," Pol said.

"We hope NanoDays sparks an interest in these students about STEM careers - and that they may see themselves as the next Purdue scholars making major breakthroughs," said Tanya Faltens, educational content creation manager for at Purdue.

Purdue is again partnering with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana for this program, which integrates with its focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Girl Scouts from throughout the state will participate in a reception from 6-8 p.m. April 15 at Birck and receive a specially designed patch for their participation.

"We are pushing our Girl Scouts to explore STEM-related futures, and we hope this Purdue-led festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering will give our girls the confidence and inspiration to explore the sciences into the future," said Jaime Hubbard, program development manager for the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana.

To register as a NanoDays volunteer, visit:

Since the event's conception in 2010, several thousand K-12 educators, students and others have participated in NanoDays at Purdue.

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, manipulate and manufacture objects between 1 and 100 nanometers in size. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers in diameter.

These technologies may lead to groundbreaking inventions such as the ability to "swallow the doctor" in microscopic robots that can be injected in the body and act as nanosurgeons. A look at the activities, games and demonstrations:

* Mock cleanroom: Visitors dress up like nanoscientists and wear a cleanroom suit. They learn that to make tiny things, scientists need to work in a very clean place.

* Exploring Tools: Transmission Electron Microscopes is a hands-on activity in which visitors use a model of a transmission electron microscope to image an object by looking at its shadow. They learn that scientists use special tools and equipment to work on the nanoscale.

* Exploring Materials: Graphene is a hands-on activity in which visitors use tape and graphite to make graphene and test the conductivity of graphite. They learn that graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern.

* Exploring Properties: Invisibility is an activity in which visitors investigate how glass objects can be "hidden" in some liquids. They learn that researchers can use nanotechnology to engineer new materials that interact with light in special ways

* Exploring Products: Nano Fabric is a hands-on activity exploring how the application of nano-sized whiskers can protect clothing from stains. Visitors investigate the hydrophobic properties of pants made from nano fabric and ordinary fabric.

* Exploring Fabrication: Electroplating is a hands on activity in which visitors coat a nickel coin with copper using the electroplating process. They learn that electroplating can deposit nanometer-thin layers of materials.

* Nano-Ice Cream: A public presentation demonstrating how liquid nitrogen cools a creamy mixture at such a rapid rate that it precipitates super fine grained (nano) ice cream.

"Other hands-on activities at NanoDays will help explain the nano-concept and how it is advancing our daily life," Pol said. "Nanoscience, nanotechnology and nanoengineering lead to new knowledge and innovations that weren't possible before."

The Birck Nanotechnology Center, an 187,000-square-foot facility, is a cornerstone of Discovery Park's interdisciplinary efforts. It involves more than 300 faculty, staff and graduate students from 36 schools and departments at Purdue, advancing research in nanoscale science and engineering with applications in areas such as health care, energy, communication, computer technology and food safety.  

Writers: Paige Pope, 219-363-2599,

Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, 

Sources: Dimitrios Peroulis, 765-494-3491,

Swati Pol, 765-494-5138,

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