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A Learning Progression To Effectively Implement Virtual Reality As An Educational Tool For K 12 Nanoscience Education

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.56.1 - 12.56.9

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Paper Authors

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John Bell University of Illinois-Chicago

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Thomas Moher University of Illinois-Chicago

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Learning Progression to Effectively Implement Virtual Reality as an Educational Tool for K-12 Nanoscience Education ABSTRACT

Nanoscience and engineering are the wave of the future, and nanoscience education is key to developing the next generation of innovative developers. However many K-12 students have difficulty relating to science that they cannot directly observe. Virtual reality based simulations are helpful for exploring these sorts of phenomena, however they must be firmly grounded back to a frame of reference with which students are familiar. This paper presents a progression of learning which uses pixels on a computer screen as a unifying theme to lead students from physical models to microscopic exploration and finally to nanoscale exploration in a virtual world.


Nanoscience Education

Advances in nanoscale science and engineering are occurring at a phenomenal rate, to the extent that many believe that this could be the next big area of human development 8. The extent of this rapid development is such that soon high school graduates will not be considered “scientifically literate” if they do not have at least a basic understanding of nanoscale phenomena. Furthermore, in order to train the next generation of nano scientists and engineers, it is important that certain key groundwork be laid down during the K-12 education cycle, so that students are ready to study nanoscience when they enter college. One of these important nanoscale fundamentals is the concept of self-assembly.


The concept of self-assembly involves components that fit together naturally into ordered structures without external action placing them into position, and which retain that ordered structure in the presence of moderate disturbances 12, 13. One common naturally occurring example of self-assembly is protein folding, in which large complex molecules fold themselves into ordered biological structures without an external agent specifically folding and bonding each piece. ( Self-assembly is driven by the attractive and repulsive forces of the atoms in the molecules, as well as stearic hindrance effects that control what portions of what molecules are able to come within close contact, and which are not. )

Modern engineers and scientists have been able to learn from observing these natural processes, and have applied the concepts of self-assembly to the manufacture of microscopic and nanoscopic man-made structures. In particular consider microscopic and nanoscopic electronic components that are too small to be assembled into useful structures using conventional pick- and-place assembly methods 11, 14. Self-assembly is an important alternative, in which components are designed to fall into place by themselves, under the influence of attractive and repulsive forces, ( generally hydrodynamics and/or some geometrical configurations. ) One example of this is the pixels on a common LCD computer screen. This latter application is an

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