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Conference teaches the science of the small

June 18, 2014 - By Karen Wentworth

How do you interest students in building things so small they can’t be seen by the unaided human eye? At UNM, faculty members know that is where the most sophisticated manufacturing capabilities – the jobs that will pay the best are likely to be. But teaching skills for jobs that are emerging and continuously changing is a challenge.

More than 80 educators from high school through university level spent the last few days learning about how micro and nano technologies can be taught effectively in the classroom. The teachers are here because they want their students involved in learning about the exploding micro/nano industry and the science in their future. This is the fourth year UNM has sponsored the conference.

Andy Kwas, a research professor with the UNM School of Engineering, told the teachers how nanotechologies are used in space in sensing devices, in the ocean to mop up oil spills, in solar cells to make them work more efficiently and in fabricating 3D light emitting objects that can be sprayed on to building or pathways.

During the Micro-Nano Technology Conference hosted by the Southwest Center for Microsystems Education the teachers were offered a variety of hands-on experiences and suggestions for ways to explain nanotechnology to students. They were also exposed to several keynote speakers including Marc Madou from the University of California Irvine and Eric McDonald from the KECK Center speaking on topics ranging from 3D printing to what the future of manufacturing could look like. The speakers brought new perspectives on the role of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.

"This was the best of our four annual MNT conferences to date, and the second in Albuquerque," said Matthias Pleil, director of the SCME. "Teachers and professors alike found many new and useful sets of materials to bring back to their students. Conference participants enjoyed the networking opportunities and gave us a great deal of positive feedback. We are looking forward to next year’s conference which will be hosted by one of our MNT partners, the SHINE Center, located at North Seattle Community College."