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Birck hosts hands-on NanoDays for K-12 schools, general public

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The fascinating, tiny world of nanotechnology will take center stage during the second annual NanoDays on April 15 and 16 at Discovery Park’s Birck Nanotechnology Center.


Students participate in a mock cleanroom demonstration during Purdue's NanoDays event in April 2010 at the Birck Nanotechnology Center. This is one of the many hands-on activities that will be offered again this year as part of NanoDays on April 15 and 16. (Purdue University file photo/Jeff Goecker)

Schools from throughout the Greater Lafayette area are invited to NanoDays from 10:00a to 3:00p on April 15 at Birck Nanotechnology Center, located at 1205 W. State St. in West Lafayette. This Purdue event is open to the general public from 10:00a to 3:00p on April 16.

NanoDays, co-sponsored by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, is a nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering and its potential impact on the future.

“During the second edition of Purdue’s NanoDays, you’ll see how nanomaterials are a part of advances in many technologies in our world today – from exciting breakthroughs in medicine, computing, sensing, energies and materials technology to cloaking and easy-to-clean trousers,” said Monica Allain, Birck’s managing director.

More than 400 people, including K-12 educators and students, participated in NanoDays 2010, and this year’s turnout is expected to exceed 800 people, Allain said. Registration is encouraged by going online to

A team from Birck Nanotechnology Center is organizing this year’s event, and nearly 150 undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines across campus are assisting.

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, manipulate and manufacture objects between 1 and 100 nanometers in size. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers in diameter.

“Even though nanotechnology is all around us and becoming more evident in our daily lives, the concepts are hard to grasp for people without the scientific background,” said Jeff Goecker, communication specialist at Birck. “The goal of NanoDays is for people of all ages to learn the basic concepts of nanotechnology in a fun and visually exciting environment.”

Among the activities, games and demonstrations at Purdue NanoDays:

  • Exploring Tools-SPM, a hands-on activity in which visitors use a flexible magnet as a model for a scanning probe microscope, a special tool that scientists use to work at the nanoscale level.
  • Exploring Fabrication-Self-Assembly, which includes full-body interactive games about the process of self-assembly in nature and nanotechnology. Visitors discover self-assembly is a process by which molecules and cells form themselves into functional structures.
  • Science Café lectures from Purdue and Birck researchers. Faculty on both days will give 20-minute mini-lectures, which are intended for audiences at the fifth-grade level and older. Topics include everything from Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Free parking for activities on April 16 is available in all A, B and C spots in the lot at the corner of Martin Jischke and Nimitz drives. Visitors on April 15 can park in the three southernmost rows of the lot and along the west side of Airport Road. Additional parking passes are available from Purdue’s Visitor Information Center, 504 Northwestern Ave.

Primary sponsors are Indianapolis law firm Barnes and Thornburg LLC, Nanovis Inc., Purdue Research Foundation, Purdue Office of Engagement, NanoProfessor, Conexus Indiana and Verso Paper. Additional support comes from the National Science Foundation, Intel Corp., Qdoba Mexican Grill, AJ’s Burgers and Beef, Mad Mushroom, Discovery Park and Birck.

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