Summer Nanocamp encourages students to think small
The invention of the microscope gave humans the ability to see deeper into the world. Through that view scientists and others were able to discover things, such as diseases, and invent items, such as the microchip, that have changed the world.
For a long time the abilities of the microscope were the limit. However, the discovery of nanotechnology has changed that. And like the microscope did more than 300 years ago many, including Dakota County Technical College instructor Deb Newberry, believe it will revolutionize the future.
In anticipation of that the college with the help of Newberry created its nanoscience program.
"The easy way to think about it is dealing with the world at an atomic and molecular level," said Newberry, who obviously enjoys the topic.
Due to the growing need Newberry and the college found it prudent to have a two year program at the college and applied for a National Science Foundation Grant. The college received the grant and established the degree in 2004. So far, Newberry said the program has graduated about 30 students.
Companies such as L'Oreal, Intel and Boston Scientific have started using the technology in products and are seeking people with knowledge in the field and who know how to use the technology. Newberry's students are those people, she said, and many are getting hired right out of college.
"I believe we have the best program in the country," said Newberry.
While other schools have programs related to nanoscience, she said the DCTC program is the most comprehensive, covering electronics, materials and biotechnology. She said more than 80,000 people will be needed to fill positions related to nanotechnology in the next few years.
"Nanotechnology will contribute more than a trillion dollars to the global economy," said Newberry.
Along with the money to establish the college degree program the NSF grant also covered costs to start a high school outreach program, which the college has held the last few summers.
Starting June 16, another group of kids grades 9 through 12 will get to take advantage of the program. While it's only a week long, the class lets high school students get a chance to change their view of science by learning about the nanoscale.
Although Newberry admits there is some lecture, the class also involves students doing a lot of hands on activities to see how it all works.
Lectures are supplemented by labs where students create gold particles and nanowires. Also, students will get to use high power equipment such as an atomic force microscope and scanning tunneling microscope.
On Wednesday of each of the two sessions offered participants will travel to the University of Minnesota to visit a nanofab clean room and the Characterization lab where they will see and get to operate the state-of-the-art equipment used by researchers there.
Newberry said the kids who taken the course have enjoyed it. She added that some of the high school students who have taken the summer class have gone on to DCTC to get the two year degree.
"It really is fun," she said.
While some maybe thinking of nerds in thick glasses playing with microscopes, Newberry said she get a variety of kids with interests in varying areas of science. The reason for that she said is because nanoscience encompasses different sciences including physics, chemistry and biology.
"It's a new way of looking at science than you're used to," said Newberry.
The first session will go from Monday, June 16 to Thursday, June 19 and the second session will take place from Monday, June 23 through Thursday, June 26. Both sessions still have openings for anyone interested, said Newberry.
Classes run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. Cost is $175 with lunch included. While the class is directed towards high schoolers Newberry said she will take anyone who is interested. The only pre-requisites for the course are an interest in math and science and a willingness to learn. To register for the course visit www.dctc.edu and click on the Nanoscience Class for High Schoolers link.