NanoDays 2014: Bozeman explores nanoscience

On April 2, MSU hosted NanoDays in the SUB ballrooms to provide the public with an opportunity to explore the emerging field of nanoscience. In the morning 5th grade students from Whittier Elementary and Irving Elementary experienced nanoscience through hands-on experiments created by MSU students of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department with the help of Dr. Wataru Nakagawa.  Nakagawa’s goal was to “make this a fun event and get students excited and interested in this field of science and technology.”

Nanotechnology and nanoscience is the study of things unseen using visible light, such as atoms or molecules. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, and not even regular microscopes are able to make nanoparticles visible. For comparision: if a marble was one nanometer, then the diameter of the Earth would be about one meter.

A nationwide event, NanoDays also reached out to the general public with an evening presentation that included fun experiments and demonstrations for all ages. An estimated 175 attended the evening event. Some people are concerned about the effects of nanoscience and nanotechnology on health and the environment, so NanoDays is also meant to “calm down possible concerns” in addition to showing that “science can be fun,” Suzi Taylor, assistant director of outreach and community at MSU Extended Univeristy, shared.

Jenni Monaco, a senior in biochemistry, volunteered for the third year in a row, showing students how to build a life-size “nanotube.” Kids blew up long, black balloons and tied them together to form hexagons that represent strong, light and flexible structures. “Here we make the nanostructures they use in the experiments really big,” said Monaco.

Students from the Headwaters Academy in Bozeman also presented experiments, showing how normal sand simply absorbs water whereas nanosand acts as a water-repellant. At another stand, the elementary students played around with oobleck, a non-Newtonian fluid that becomes solid if hit hard enough.

Children also got to try on the “bunny-suits” scientists wear while working with nanoparticles in the “clean room”.  A “clean-room” is not a germ-free but a dust-free zone, explained Montana Microfabrication Facility professors.

To make the kids more “interested in robot-technology,” mechanical engineering students, Daniel Nuno-Ramirez and Shandon Reay, presented the mining-robot named “Mamba,” which was built by MSU students.

NanoDays 2014 was sponsored by the MSU Extended University and Montana NSF EPSCoR.

For more information on nanoscience or NanoDays go to http://www.nisenet.org/.