Teach Nanotechnology with Visualization

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Workshop to teach AFM for nanotechnology education with Professor Robert Decker (left) from MVCC and Dr. Sala Qazi (right) from SUNYIT

A collaborative effort to develop instructional materials for nanotechnology between Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) and SUNY Institute of Technology (SUNYIT) has helped integrate the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) into mainstream electrical engineering technology and other programs at both colleges.

Professor Robert Decker at MVCC and Dr. Sala Qazi at SUNYIT spoke to the nanoAdvisor about their endeavors. Over two years ago they received a grant from the National Science Foundation called Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES, formerly known as CCLI). Since then they have developed instructional materials for visualization of nanoscale components using the Atomic Force Microscope. Prof. Decker has a Nanosurf ® easyScan 2 AFM which they use on both campuses because of its easy portability. They have organized workshops on "Visualization of Nanoscale Components Using Low Cost AFMs" with the easyScan AFM as well as other microscopes. Students, faculty and industry employees interested in learning the application of nanoscale visualization using AFMs attended these workshops.

Both MVCC and SUNYIT have nanotechnology courses to offer their students. After completing a 2-year degree at MVCC students may transfer to SUNYIT to pursue a Bachelor's degree. At SUNYIT, they can eventually combine their nanotechnology courses with some liberal arts courses to get a minor in Nanotechnology. Dr. Qazi says

"Nanotechnology is a skill. It is an enabling technology and if students have this extra skill it will only help them to get better jobs."

Prof. Decker and Dr. Qazi are also very active when it comes to nanotechnology outreach. They have performed demonstrations for middle school students and given talks to high school students to increase nanotechnology awareness. They feel that students cannot really fathom or appreciate how small "nano" is unless they see a visual demonstration. The nanoAdvisor also spoke to their evaluator, Dr. Eugenio Basualdo, who is an associate professor from SUNY Oswego. He was clearly impressed with the interest and excitement nanotechnology generated amongst students and teachers alike at these workshops. He emphasized the need for technology awareness at the secondary level in order to continue education in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

"It can be applied to so many things; from criminal justice to biology to engineering" says Dr. Basualdo. "The future of nanotechnology is wide open."

When asked for tips for other educators who are looking to build a successful nanotechnology program, their unanimous vote went to sharing resources. Their synergistic approach helped to create a pool of knowledge, increased accessibility to instruments and opened up endless possibilities for them. Such partnerships are springing up all over the nation but they would like to see more. They also encourage educators to apply for funding at the federal and state level and attend nanotechnology workshops.

AFM Workshop with Decker and Qazi

AFM Workshop with Professors Decker and Qazi