UMass Boston

Bringing Nanotechnology to High School Students

This study explores ways to bring the exciting field of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology to high school students. The unique approach of this project begins with the exploration of technological tools themselves, using their applications to discover concepts. One approach that we have specifically worked on is introducing an atomic force microscope (AFM) to eighth grade classrooms.  Students are first introduced to the AFM via a scaled up LEGO model of a true AFM that is programmed to collect and display data in a similar manner. Students are engaged in hands-on experiences in exploring the AFM and its various components. In doing so, they learn about the tool's capability to produce images at the nanoscale. Working backwards, students discover concepts such as size and scale, and material properties by reverse engineering the technological tool. The project draws from framework of Educational Reconstruction to design and develop appropriate modules for use in high school. 

This study is a part of a bigger NSF (DUE: 1723511) funded project, Nano-Makerspace to Make and Explore in the World of the Small ( Matthew Bell, Tejaswini Dalvi). 

The objective of this project is to expose a broad community of K-12 students, undergraduates, and the general public to the "World of the Small" and the rules that govern the physical world at the nanoscale. The tools, know-how, and environment to explore at the nanoscale has been generally out of reach of typical Makerspaces. Institutions with such capabilities are limited to graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and research scientists.  These groups are typically very much results-oriented, which does not encourage an environment of self-discovery of interests or skills in this field. The Making movement is just the opposite—it is a process-oriented approach allowing Makers to self-discover talents, skills and interests into typically STEM related disciplines. We intend to provide the tools, environment, and the knowledge to "Makers" to explore the "World of the Small" by applying the principles of Making, Sharing, Giving, Learning, Tooling, Playing, Participating, Supporting, and Changing.

View a presentation outlining the project's research (paper accepted for NARST 2020).


COSMIC (Center of Science and Mathematics in Context)

100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125-3393


This center is part of the College of Education and Human Development and College of Science and Mathematics.