NanoCampers Go Big on Nano in UC Labs

A group of NanoCampers recently visited the University of Cincinnati campus as part of a collaboration between UC and the Cincinnati Museum Center. 

Professors Carlos Bolech and Nayana Shah, physics faculty in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, worked with the Cincinnati Museum Center to organize a Nano-science day camp. They served as liaisons to 24 NanoCampers, ages nine to 13, visiting the University of Cincinnati in July. 

Bolech and Shah became involved with the program because they believed the Nano-science day camp would excite kids about nano-science and STEM disciplines in general. The McMicken duo coordinated with relevant UC laboratories and research groups so the campers could truly experience nano research.

During the NanoCamp, Bolech and Shah had an interactive orientation session in a Braunstein Lecture Hall so that the NanoCampers could step into the shoes of UC students. The group discussed activities the kids completed at the Museum’s STEM Discovery Lab, such as banana DNA extraction and studying flames dancing with music. From these activities, the participants were able to create connections with the type of research completed by UC’s nanophysics scientists.  

Using a sample theory lab, Bolech and Shah demonstrated how the theoretical part of nano research is used to develop an understanding of the experimental observations. They also conveyed how theoretical and experimental research go hand in hand. 

Then, the NanoCampers visited the Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM) lab in the Engineering Research Center, where Melodie Fickenscher introduced the kids to ESEM and showed them samples ranging from butterfly wings and mold to nanowires studied in the UC physics labs.

To culminate their visit, the campers had rotations in three nanophysics laboratories with Professors Leigh Smith and Howard Jackson, David Mast, and Hans-Peter Wagner. Learning first-hand from these researchers and graduate students, kids were able to see how nano systems are probed and understood using various cutting-edge experimental setups. 

“Everyone was amazed at how inquisitive and involved the kids were during the entire visit and just how well they understood what was being shared,” Shah said. “They asked some really sharp and imaginative questions that demonstrated their keen interest and their understanding of the scientific process.”

Bolech and Shah are looking forward to hosting more NanoCampers and hope that they will see some of those NanoCampers in UC’s classrooms in years to come. 

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