Asee peer logo

Exploring Nanotechnology with Electrospinning: Design, Experiment, and Discover!

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

New and Innovative Ideas

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.617.1 - 25.617.33



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jennifer S. Atchison Drexel University

visit author page

Jennifer S. Atchison holds a bachelor's of science in materials engineering and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel University. Before returning to Drexel for her graduate education, she worked at the American Competitiveness Institute and JDS Uniphase as a Reliability Engineer. Her research, under the guidance of Dr. Caroline Schauer, is focused on exploring electrospun polyelectrolyte nanofiber composites for sensing applications. She also has experience in optics, photonics, and near field scanning probe microscopy. Atchison has served as the Director of the Science Program at the Achievement Project and was awarded the NSF GK-12 Fellowship for two years. She is a dedicated educator who emphasizes excellence, innovation, and bridging of theory and practice.

visit author page

author page

Danielle Tadros Drexel University


Yury Gogotsi Drexel University

visit author page

Yury Gogotsi is Distinguished University Professor and Trustee Chair of Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel University. He also serves as Director of the A.J. Drexel Nanotechnology Institute. His research group works on nanostructured carbons and other nanomaterials. He has co-authored two books, edited ten books, obtained more than 20 patents and authored more than 250 research papers. He currently serves as an Editor of CARBON (Elsevier) and is a member of the editorial board of several other journals.

visit author page

author page

Paul Holt

author page

William Andrew Stoy North Carolina State University

author page

Joy A. Kots Father Judge High School


Caroline Louise Schauer Drexel University

visit author page

Caroline Schauer is an Associate Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Drexel University. She holds a B.S. in chemistry from Beloit College and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has 22 publications and three patents in the field of polysaccharides (out of 32 total publications).

visit author page

Download Paper |


Nanotechnology is a challenging concept to teach. The length scales involved aredifficult to visualize, the products are invisible to the human eye and in most cases thefabrication and characterization of nano-scale materials are prohibitively expensive forhigh school science programs. Moreover, the inaccessibility of nanotechnology in theclassroom reduces the student’s experience to factual recall of a list of properties andadvantages of materials at the nanometer scale. This situation does nothing to alleviatethe perception that science/engineering is boring and does not engage students in theactual work patterns and discourse of practicing STEM professionals. To redress thissituation, students need not only to acquire the fundamental principles ofnanotechnology, but participate in activities designed to encourage the habitus that willmake it more likely they will pursue higher education in STEM.Electrospinning was chosen as a vehicle to explore nanofabrication because it is not onlysimple, but inexpensive. The physics, chemistry, and engineering principals used inelectrospinning are attainable for high school students and the materials used to producethe nanofibers are safe for a classroom. In this project, the students built K’Nexelectrospinning stations, and identified the process variables and material’s propertiesthat control the resulting fiber diameters. They wrote a short proposal positing theirhypothesis and a detailed experimental plan to optimize the fiber diameters and yieldusing their electrospinning station. The students implemented their experiment, troubleshot equipment failures, and collected their nanofibers. In collaboration with a localuniversity their, nanofibers were imaged using an SEM and the students analyzed thefiber diameter distributions with Image J software and a statistical package in Excel.The electrospinning activity was supported through a series of short lectures and inquiry-based activities designed to provide a working knowledge of nanotechnology in generaland the physics and chemistry employed in nanofiber production specifically.Additionally several modes of assessment were used throughout the activity. Inparticular, an attitudes inventory was administered pre and post activity to evaluatechange in perceptions about pursuing STEM careers. Summative assessments were usedto gage student’s learning and performance based assessments were used to enhancestudent’s internalization of the subject matter. The students demonstrated an improvedunderstanding of nanotechnology across the board and girls performed better than theboys on the summative assessment. As a capstone on the project the students producedposters to communicate their findings to their peers and compete in local and regionalscience fairs.This project was a joint effort between high school teachers who participated in the 2011NSF Research Experience for Teachers in Nanotechnology (RET-Nano), students in the2011 NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), their graduate mentors andfaculty. The RET-Nano teachers and REU students/mentors worked together to developlesson plans and activities to scaffold the high school student’s learning experience. TheREU students designed, built, and tested the experimental hardware for theelectrospinning traveling kit. And the graduate mentor travelled to all of school sites todemonstrate the electrospinning equipment and talk about her research.

Atchison, J. S., & Tadros, D., & Gogotsi, Y., & Holt, P., & Stoy, W. A., & Kots, J. A., & Schauer, C. L. (2012, June), Exploring Nanotechnology with Electrospinning: Design, Experiment, and Discover! Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21374

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015