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  • NSF Funds Nanotech Education Center
Oct 2004
ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 1 -- With a five-year, $15 million grant to Northwestern University, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding the nation's first Center for Learning and Teaching in Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NCLT). The center, under the direction of Robert P.H. Chang, a Northwestern professor of materials science and engineering, will develop scientist-educators who can introduce nanoscience and nanoengineering concepts into schools and undergraduate classrooms. It will also play the key role in a national network of researchers and educators committed to ensuring that Americans are prepared academically to participate in the new opportunities nanotechnology will offer, the NSF said.

The NCLT is a a shared effort among Northwestern University, Purdue University, the University of Michigan, Argonne National Laboratories and the Universities of Illinois at Chicago and Urbana-Champaign. Drawing on the strengths of the various partners in nanotechnology, instruction-materials development, educational assessment and student cognition, the NCLT will create modular education materials designed to integrate with existing curricula in grades 7-12 and to align with national and state science education standards. Each module will be based on topics from nanoscience and nanoengineering, selected and developed by an interdisciplinary team including scientists, engineers, education researchers and graduate students and practicing teachers. Expanded versions of the modules will be targeted at community colleges, and undergraduate institutions and will eventually serve as the core of semester-long courses in nanotechnology.

For professional development activities and curricular testing, the Midwestern lead institutions will collaborate with additional partners locally and nationally. Undergraduate course materials will be field-tested and evaluated at multiple sites, including five minority-serving institutions: Alabama A & M University, Fisk University, Hampton University, Morehouse College and the University of Texas at El Paso.

According to Chang, the center's initial nano-education modules will focus on materials science and engineering. "At the nanoscale, materials science connects ideas from the biological, physical and earth sciences," Change said. "Our modules will emphasize the role of nanoscale properties and structure in determining the behavior of the substances -- from plastics to semiconductors to metals -- that drive our technological society, and the possibilities nanoscale control offers for new materials."

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