Schenectady County

Annual weeklong program introduces kids to nanotech

Students will have the chance to learn about fuel cells, polymers and other applications of nanotech

Students will have the chance to learn about fuel cells, polymers and other applications of nanotechnology when NanoDays 2012 kicks off Saturday.

This is the third year that the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany is participating in the weeklong event. The college is collaborating with organizations such as the Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium, the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology in Troy, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany and the Capital District YMCA’s Black and Latino Achievers Program to offer a full schedule of programs.

“The idea is really to get the light bulb to go off among young people so they understand there are a growing amount of opportunities both in education and careers in nanotechnology,” said college spokesman Stephen Janack.

Nanotechnology deals with materials that measure one-billionth of a meter — a human hair, for perspective, is 80,000 nanometers thick. Janack said all the activities are done in a way that is easily understandable by youths.

Programs will be held beginning from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Children’s Museum.

The latest research and applications from the college’s Nanobio team will be on display. People will have the chance to learn applications of nanotechnology in health care. Other activities are “Ball Sorter,” where people will get the chance to sort items by size; create a necklace of wheat germ DNA; learn how super-absorbing hydrogel can be used to move a straw; and understand the process by which molecules and cells are formed into structures.

Admission to the museum is $5 per person.

Monday through Thursday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., the college will hold workshops in conjunction with the Albany Boys and Girls Club.

On Monday, the presentation will focus on what nanotechnology is. Also, Sara Brenner, assistant vice president for NanoHealth Initiatives, will show students in the teen program current and future applications of nanotechnology in medicine.

On Tuesday, Stephen Stewart, an instructional support technician, will show students ages 9- 12 the “bunny suits” worn in the college’s high-tech sterile cleanrooms and conduct several hands-on experiments.

On Wednesday, Nathaniel Cady, an assistant professor of nanobioscience, will show students ages 5-7 the process of forming molecules and structures. They will help create polymer worms and other activities. Also Wednesday, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., the Capital District YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Group will visit the college.

On Thursday, students ages 7 and 8 will learn about fuel cells, solar energy and photo voltaic panels.

The college is partnering with the Schenectady Museum and Suits-Bueche Planetarium for activities March 31. The activities include a ball-sorter game and learning about thin films — visitors can create a bookmark by using a super-thin layer of nail polish on water. Also, members of the college’s Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center will conduct solar power house experiments and talk about solar cars and airplanes and hydrogen cars.

Megan Dominguez, education and planetarium manager, said the museum will have a variety of tables and demonstrations set up all month to give people a sense of the scale of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is being used in everyday products such as sunscreen because smaller particles absorb into the skin better, instead of resting on top of the skin, according to Dominguez.

In new types of stain-resistant clothing, droplets of moisture would be absorbed by tiny fibers, instead of getting on the clothing itself.

Dominguez said these applications of nanotechnology surprise people.

“Some people have heard nanotechnology out there, but they don’t know what it means,” she said. “We do get children and adults alike that will come with questions. Hopefully, it will prompt them to continue to look into the topic.”

Admission is $5 for children ages 4-12, $6.25 for senior citizens and $7.50 for adults.

The weeklong event is organized by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, with funding from the National Science Foundation.

For the complete schedule, visit

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