Students Embrace Nanotechnology in New Program

Some very lucky Farmington High School and Burnsville High School students have been enrolled in a novel new nanotechnology program at Dakota County Technical College, writes Heron Marquez Estrada at the Star Tribune.

Officials set up the class as a vehicle for getting students more involved in the niche scientific field. Proponents hope that the classes will eventually be taught in high schools using high school teachers.

“The nanotechnology field is very young now,” said one enrolled student, Brad Dow.

“It’d be great if I was the answer to an essay question in the future about nanotech.”

Nanotechnology’s present-day applications involve building lighter planes and stronger buildings, treating cancers or even creating wrinkle-free clothing.

“Nanoscience is fairly new,” said Deb Newberry, course instructor at the college.

“They are learning something that not a lot of people are learning about in college or beyond.

“We are the one people come to when they want to learn about teaching nanotech or starting a nanotech program.”

The class currently meets every day of the week – twice for lab work where students are able to build things and utilize $1 million worth of equipment, and three days a week for lectures.

Bruce Morrissette, the associate principal at Burnsville High School, said the possibilities of such a new and exciting science created an attractive possibility for the district.

“It fit a need,” Morrissette said of the class, referring to the fact that the program counts towards college credit.

“It was something that took us in a different direction and was cutting edge. We need to get more into thinking outside the box.”

While the high school students study exactly what the college students do, Newberry admitted she sometimes has to spend more time on topics with the younger students.

“It’s not been the smoothest first semester,” Newberry said, “but it’s been pretty much what I would have expected for a first-year program.”

Though Newbury doesn’t dumb down the program. In fact, part of the point of it is to teach the high school students how to do college work and using college study habits, such as taking shorter notes, reading the texts on their own and being prepared for tests and quizzes.

“Being able to create structures that you can’t see with your eyeballs or that are atoms thick is pretty cool. The students are doing things that their older brothers or sisters didn’t get to do.”

01 4, 2012
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