NSF-sponsored outreach activity “Nanodays” was carried out on April 14th, 2012 in Mayagüez Mall at Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The main objective of this event was to show to the local community, especially K-12 students, some important features of nanotechnology. Several research groups from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez of different backgrounds presented simple and interesting experiments/demonstrations about the relevance of nanotechnology and how it affects our world. Related concepts were organized in stations.
Our research group was present with a few hands-on experiences to explain two key physical phenomena observed at nanoscales: Brownian motion and inertialess particle dynamics.
The “Brownian motion” demonstration consisted of a small box with marbles representing fluid molecules around a disk or the colloidal particle. Visitors had the opportunity to interact with this experiment by pushing the “molecules” into the “colloid” and causing random displacement. Also, they had the opportunity to see how the “colloid” was tracked in 2D space using a camera and computer software.
Before explaining the concept of inertialess particle dynamics to the visiting public we first explained several basic concepts, such as viscosity, forces and energy. We conducted an experiment consisting of two “swimming” toys (submarines), one submerged in water and another in corn starch. The visitors were able to see the toys swimming in each fluid and see clearly how viscous fluids causes higher friction in the motion of a propelled object. In corn starch, the toy displacement was negligible. All the energy created by the toy was absorb by the viscous fluid but it was disseminated very slowly in comparison to water. This experiment was motivated by classic educational videos from G.I. Taylor in Low Reynolds Number Flows (see part 1 and part 2).
“Nanodays” was offered by 37 graduate students, 54 undergraduates, 2 high school teachers and 8 professors with over 2,000 visitors to the stations. A poll carried out to 500 participants gave us important data for improving our demonstrations for future ocassions. In summary, 30% of our visitors were high school students and 40% ranged from 35 to 60 years old, where the 99% of visitors stated that they understood all nanotechnology concepts presented on the stations. These statistics justify that our group did an excellent job in presenting these concepts. An interest not only in nanotechnology but in STEM fields in general was created among all visitors. This is encouraging because it motivate us to continue supporting and believing in this initiative and work harder for future activities. Our group recognizes that delivering abstract concepts encountered in our daily work is crucial for the improvement of education in STEM fields.
UCF Research Group Participants: Ubaldo M Córdova-Figueroa, Christian Santoni, Efrain Aymat