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Nano Days: glimpse of nanotechnology

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Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 3:56 pm

Cal Poly Pomona’s Science and Engineering Departments held the fourth annual Nano Days event on Friday in the Bronco Student Center.

Students and faculty from the Engineering and Science Departments hosted 40 students from Fremont Academy, a high school that specializes in Engineering and Design.

Attendees were invited to participate in various activities set up by CPP faculty and students. Engineering and science student volunteers were stationed at different tables as they demonstrated the uses of minerals such as “Nano gold” and Graphene and scientific concepts such as surface area.

The event was planned by faculty coordinator, Janet Hamabata, and student coordinators Michelle Chebeir, and Taylor Halsey.

According to Halsey, a third-year Biotechnology student, there is a national initiative to make students more aware of the everyday uses of nanotechnology and how it affects their lives.

“It’s not just at [CPP]; it’s a national event that libraries, museums and schools put on,” said Halsey. “It’s one week, usually the first week of April, everyone does it at the same time. There are events for little kids, middle school and high school students.”

Darren DeWitt, a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering student demonstrated how to isolate graphene, by putting graphite flakes on a piece of tape.

“This activity of peeling layer upon layers of graphene actually won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 because before then, it had not been known how to isolate graphene,” DeWitt said.

Nicole Fu, a fifth-year Biology student was in charge of demonstrating how Nano Gold is used to make stained glass. The student visitors were also encouraged to give their opinions while in discussion circles at workshops for concepts like Cognitive Enhancement.

The high school students engaged in the academic conversation by defining the term nano, discussing “Google glasses” and sharing their favorite workshops from the event such as the graphene activity, liquid crystals and UV beads.

Nancy Solorzano, a junior at Fremont Academy said that seeing all these things at the workshop made her realize the possibilities in engineering and design.

Besides having the chance to be educated in nanotechnology and engaging in engineering activities, the students also toured the campus.

“I really like the campus and its history; it seems so interesting,” said eight-grader Vanessa Aguirre.

Andrea Ferris, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student and first-time volunteer said that she was not familiar with the material she was in charge of at first, but learning about it and having to explain it to others was a good experience. She said the event, not only engaged the younger students, but benefitted the college students as well.

“I came to the conclusion that this event more than educating the kids, is also for engineering and science majors to develop their communication skills,” said Ferris. “This is the way to do it: having to explain something you think you know, and simplifying it and still having [that information to] be true.”

Last year, the event was held on a weekend and middle and high school kids attended Nano Days with their parents. According to Science Council President, Nidia Saca, this is the first year that CPP hosted a specific group of kids.

“The crowd is a little smaller based on what I’ve seen,” said Saca. “It’s the same thing of giving back to the kids and telling them what science is about. But because of that, it’s more detailed and focused.”

Despite a change in faculty advisors, Chebeir said that Nano Days went well because the kids and the volunteers all seemed really engaged.

Chebeir and Halsey have both helped plan the event in previous years but this is the first year Hamabata is coordinating the event. Since its conception four years ago, the event had been coordinated by Tanya Faltens, according to Hamabata, she took over the event for this year since Faltens moved to Purdue University.

“Having a new faculty advisor was interesting because I was in a position of more experience with the event,” said Chebeir, fifth-year Chemical Engineering student. “So it was almost like I was the advisor. But [Hamabata] was very enthusiastic and willing to share her knowledge and help.”

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