First-Year Engineering Students' Learning of Nanotechnology through an Open-Ended Project



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Nanotechnology is an innovative and highly active field of research and development that presents many opportunities for future graduates. Engineering students should be made more aware of the field of nanotechnology and its potential impact on their academics, careers, and lives. This research team is a part of the NSF-funded Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) and is conducting this research on NCN's initiatives to introduce more students to nanotechnology. Through this study we hope to better understand what first-year engineering (FYE) students learned about nanotechnology through their involvement in a nanotechnology-based design project. Twenty-eight teams' executive summaries were qualitatively analyzed to understand what students discussed in their final descriptions of their design solutions. It was found that teams had difficulty understanding the nanoscale and differentiating it from the micro and atomic scales. It was also found that teams that included specific products and/or applications of nanotechnology in their project solution showed a greater understanding of nanotechnology. Based on these finding, it is recommended that the nanoscale be explained through comparisons to other scales and nanotechnology-based design projects should encourage students to learn about specific products and/or applications of nanotechnology.


Kelsey Rodgers is currently a graduate student at Purdue University in the School of Engineering Education. She is part of the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) Research team. She conducts research within the First-Year Engineering Program to help understand what and how students are learning about nanotechnology.


Rodgers, K.J., Diefes-Dux, H.A., Madhavan, K., & Oakes, W.C. (2013). First-year engineering students' learning of nanotechnology through an open-ended project. Published proceedings of the 120th ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition,Paper ID #7380, Atlanta, GA.

(The draft copy of this paper is attached. There is also a slide attached that summarizes some key ideas of the paper.)

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Kelsey Joy Rodgers; Heidi A Diefes-Dux; Krishna Madhavan (2013), "First-Year Engineering Students' Learning of Nanotechnology through an Open-Ended Project,"

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