The technological world today is constantly evolving. Every year, new discoveries and improvements to previous technologies change the way we live. Nanotechnology is one field that is quickly advancing and impacting our daily lives. School systems often do not have the lesson plans or the funding necessary to teach students about these new technologies. Valparaiso University's undergraduate College of Engineering has developed simple, inexpensive, and efficient lesson plans to educate young students about the world of nanotechnology.
We structured our lesson plans around three main goals. The first and most important goal for the students was to learn and retain the information presented to them. Our next goal was to design lessons that were hands-on, active, and challenging. Our third and final goal was to observe the students' reactions and experiences with the lesson so that we may improve it for future classes. With these goals in mind, we were able to design five simple lessons that explain how nanotechnology affects the technological world.
The five lessons we developed were designed to take simple concepts and explain how they work at the nano-level. Since we choose to focus on the electrical/digital world, we covered basic topics such as Ohm's Law, conductors, and digital logic. We explained how we are able to visually see nano-scale devices and gave a basic introduction to their properties.
To test our lesson plans, we presented them to approximately 120 fourth and fifth grade students, equally distributed across six groups. The students all attend a local school district, and all had shown a strong aptitude and interest in science and math. We taught each of the lessons over three consecutive Saturday mornings and continually observed their reactions to the material.
The lessons were outlined by a professor of electrical and computer engineering. The details and analogies to explain the lessons were developed by the professor and the nine undergraduate electrical engineering students responsible for delivering the lessons. This gave all of the undergraduate students an opportunity to learn about nanotechnology and practice what they learned by teaching the material to younger children.