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NC State’s NanoDays grows into a national effort

Students participate in NanDays.

Students participate in NanoDays.Dr. Gail Jones became hooked on nanotechnology as a professor at UNC Chapel Hill 15 years ago.

Her colleagues there developed a nanomanipulator that controlled an atomic force microscope that uses a needle-like probe and allowed for tactile feedback. This exciting tool could be operated remotely, allowing middle and high school students to feel objects like a cold virus at the nanoscale from their classrooms.

That sparked an interest in nano that Jones carried with her to NC State. She arrived in Raleigh and joined the NC State Nanotechnology Initiative led by Dr. Gregory Parsons of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering as it was getting started. Jones, Alumni Graduate Distinguished Professor of STEM Education, led the educational component of the Nano Initiative. She started an annual event called NanoDays, recognizing that the need to provide education on the world of nanotechnology goes beyond just graduate students. The technology, and the impact it is having on many aspects of human life, is too important.

“In the lifetime of the people coming to NanoDays these products are going to revolutionize their world, and I think it’s important for them to know about the excitement, know about the opportunity and to begin to think about the potential risks and ethical implications of these highly advanced technologies that literally are engineering the world atom by atom.”

As the event, started 12 years ago, grew more popular, the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network caught on to the idea and turned it into a nationwide festival. Jones was a member of the organization’s advisory board and helped to get this national effort off the ground. In 2016, NanoDays events were held at more than 250 science museums, research centers and universities nationwide, from Puerto Rico to Hawaii.

Kayla Telford was a NanoDays volunteer as an undergraduate at NC State. Now she is in her fourth year as a teacher at Apex High School and is co-coach of the school’s Science Olympiad team.

“After that experience of doing fun science demonstrations and seeing the children’s reactions at NanoDays, I knew for sure that I wanted to teach science,” Telford said.

The 2016 NC State event was held in Engineering Building III on Centennial Campus. Middle school and high school students from across North Carolina attended.

The event was supported by PowerAmerica, the Eastman Chemical Company, the Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network and the Research Triangle Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Several College of Engineering faculty members took part, running demonstrations and leading tours of their laboratories.

Return to contents or download the Fall/Winter 2016 NC State Engineering magazine (PDF, 3MB).

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