Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Putting Rustlike Crystals on ICE

Every year I spend four fabulous weeks teaching precocious high school students about nanotechnology. The COSMOS program at the University of California at Santa Cruz has classes on physics, chemistry, astronomy, math puzzles, marine biology, designing and creating video games, robotics, and nanotechnology. Similar programs run at UC Davis, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego.

My recent silence on this blog has been, in part, due to preparation for and running of the just-completed program. Students went home last Saturday and I am ready to share some of what I experienced.

Learning a strategy for understanding and evaluating nanotechnology is particularly important because students will forget most of the technical details about...

  • Genetically modifying extremophile bacteria to create nanoscale grids of magnetic storage elements
  • Sequencing DNA and RNA through nanopores (using control theory students learn in robotics)
  • Seeking inspiration from the mind-boggling accuracy of replicating a single cell to create a human being
  • Using the Peltier Effect to remove heat from very small hot spots on integrated circuits...and reversing the semiconductor phenomenon to capture energy from waste heat
  • Interfacing the mechanical to the electronic on very small scale with Micro Electro Mechancial Systems (MEMS)
One way we practiced ICE-9 was applying it to news reports about nanotechnology. Clicking on the above image will show a New York Times article dissected with ICE-9. It applies nearly anywhere...and familiarity with it may the greatest gift I can impart in just four weeks to my students. As most of them are academically at the top of their high schools, I look forward to the dispersal of the ICE-9 meme to universities everywhere.

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