Nanotechnology initiatives aim to get big reaction from kids


Nanotechnology may be the study of tiny molecules, but it’s gaining a lot of ground with students.

The National Science Foundation and NBC Learn released a new educational video series and a nanotech-enabled superhero contest, according to a White House blog post Monday.

The activities aim to inspire students to develop high-tech skills and prepare for jobs through nanotechnology-related education, with the support of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, NSF and Stan Lee, a co-creator of comic characters including Spider-Man and Iron Man. Nanotechnology is the engineering of systems at the molecular level.

“So I’ve created a whole caboodle of superheroes, but the important thing is, now it’s your turn,” Stan Lee said in a promotional video of the “Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes” contest.

The challenge is open to high school students. Applicants need to design a superhero with nanotechnology-driven gears, based on findings in modern nanotechnology research. Finalists will showcase their ideas in April at the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival.

Besides the contest, more educational resources are available to both students and educators.

A six-episode video series, called “Nanotechnology: Super Small Science”, will air Monday on NBC Learn. The videos explain how nanotechnology can be applied to industries like advanced electronics, renewable energy and health. The content is expected to reach 9 million students across the country through more than 200 NBC affiliate stations.

For educators who have difficulty finding teaching resources about nanoscience and engineering, a searchable database is being developed by nanoHUB and NNCO.

NNCO is also expanding the U.S. Nano and Emerging Technologies Students Network, to gather tech enthusiasts and encourage students to build tech clubs in universities and colleges across the country. The network is preparing their first convening this summer at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference & Expo at National Harbor in Maryland.

Nanotechnology has been identified as one of the emerging “general-purpose technologies” in the Obama administration’s latest Strategy for American Innovation report.

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