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Education and Outreach: Nanotechnology Activity Guides

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Audience: Middle school class
Time Needed: Approximately 45 minutes

Related Wisconsin Model Academic Science Standards:
Activity Materials:
Activity Instructions:

Toss the ball to ten different students. Each student who catches the ball names one example of technology. Have a student write these examples on the board.

Toss the ball to two different students. Whoever catches the ball must pick a technology from the list and give one use of that technology in his or her own life or the life of his or her community.

After the class has discussed a few of the technologies, move on to the Technology Brainstorming Activity.

Technology Brainstorming Activity
Tell the class that they will work in groups to brainstorm uses of their assigned technology, just like the two students who caught the ball did.

Divide the class into groups of 2-5 students.

Introduce the following group activity and assign each group a technology from the board.

The groups will brainstorm the ways their technology is used by themselves, their parents, and their communities. The groups will then present what technology they worked on and how they, their parents, and their communities use that technology.

Introduction to Nano-Spider Silk Activity
Briefly discuss nanotechnology. This includes brainstorming synonyms for the word "small" to emphasize that nano means small.

Also discuss how nanotech will work (moving individual atoms around to create new materials) and current and proposed uses. The overheads provided on the IPSE website will aid the discussion.

Nano-Spider Silk Group Activity
Have the students work in the same groups as they did for the Technology Brainstorming Activity. Each group will be assigned a different type of community. The community descriptions are available on the IPSE website.

Each group must invent a use for nano spider silk in their assigned communities, design a poster featuring this product, and present their product to the class. Each group must include the following information on their poster:

  1. What their product is.
  2. Why their community needs the product.
  3. Details about your community, such as the population and the major industries.

During the poster presentations, the instructor might ask each group the following questions:

  1. How will your product improve (or harm) life in your community?
  2. Would you use this product?

Throw the ball to five students and ask them to tell you one thing they learned. Restate each student's answer for the class.

Required Background Information:

Students should know about atoms.

Supplemental Materials:

If you are unable to open pdf files, please download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.


IPSE Interns: Megan Anderson, Chris Luebke

IPSE Leadership Team: Wendy C. Crone, J. Aura Gimm, Wendy deProphetis, Greta Zenner, and Tom Derenne

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The Nanotechnology Activity Guides are a product of the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and the Internships in Public Science Education Project of the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Funding provided by the National Science Foundation.