June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.609.1 - 24.609.24
First-Year Engineering Students’ Communication of Nanotechnology Size & Scale in a Design ChallengeThe mysterious world of the nanoscale can stimulate young people’s imagination and inspiretheir interest in science and technology.1 While nanotechnology is a highly engaging topic forstudents, it entails concepts that are difficult to understand and need to be carefully consideredwhen incorporating nanotechnology into classroom instruction. The big idea of size and scale isa difficult concept for students to grasp, but is the most fundamental concept.2,3 Size refers to thequalitative property of an object.4 It is the physical magnitude, extent, or bulk of the object thatdescribes its characteristics.2 Scale refers to the quantitative property of an object.4 It is ameasurement tool that is used by scientist to study objects and processes, which containsanalytical dimensions with ascending and descending steps.5 This study was guided by thefollowing research question: How do student teams communicate their ideas concerning size andscale concepts through their nanotechnology-based design projects?This study was conducted within a First-Year Engineering course at a large Midwesternuniversity. Students were required to create a graphical-user interface (GUI) to communicatefundamental concepts of nanotechnology to their peers, including size and scale. The finalsubmissions of 30 teams were analyzed in this study. The theoretical framework for this studywas grounded theory and the strategies of inquiry were open coding and axial coding.6 Theestablished categories were mapped to existing literature (e.g. Magana, Brophy, & Bryan,2012).7Although all 30 teams showed some attempt to communicate nano size and scale, only 18 teams(60%) communicated what a nanometer is in comparison to meters, inches, or other scaledmeasurements. Only three teams (10%) stated that the nanoscale included measurements of 1 to100 nanometers. Twenty-one teams (70%) presented a quantitative analysis of a single object,demonstrating the concept of scale. Sixteen teams (53%) presented a qualitative and/orquantitative analysis of two or more things, demonstrating size and/or scale. Misconceptionsconcerning size and scale were identified.Many teams focused on the relationship between the nano and macro scales. Very few teamsincorporated both the atomic and micro scales in their project. Magana et al. (2012) explains thatthe bigger the difference between sizes of objects, the more difficult to comprehend thequantitative proportion between the objects (i.e. how many times bigger).7 This analysis showsthat students may need further prompting to help them focus on establishing the differencesbetween the nanoscale and the atomic and micro scales. As more teams incorporated scaleconcepts than size concepts, it may be beneficial to prompt students to include content thatcovers both size and scale concepts.This analysis provides directions for next steps in both the curriculum and instruction design forteaching size and scale. The potential misconceptions identified in this study indicate a need forfurther research on size and scale misconceptions while informing some starting points. References1. Chang, R.P.H. (2006). A call for nanoscience education. Nano Today, 1, 6-7.2. Delgado, C. (2009). Development of a research-based learning progression for middle school through undergraduate students’ conceptual understanding of size and scale. Retrieved from Deep Blue Dissertations and Thesis Collection. (http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/64794)3. Stevens, S.Y., Sutherland, L.M., & Krajcik, J.S. (2009). The big ideas of nanoscale science & engineering: A guidebook for secondary teachers. National Science Teachers Association: United States of America, pp. 5-72.4. Magana, A.J., Brophy, S.P, & Newby T. (2008). Scaffolding student’s conceptions of proportional size and scale cognition with analogies and metaphors. Proceedings of the 115th Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, Pittsburgh, PA.5. Gibson, C. C., Ostrom, E., & Ahn, T. K. (2000). The concept of scale and the human dimensions of global change: a survey. Ecological economics, 32, 217-239.6. Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.7. Magana, A.J., Brophy, S.P, & Bryan, L.A. (2012). An integrated knowledge framework to characterize and scaffold size and scale cognition (FS2C). International Journal of Science Education, 34(14), 2181-2203.
Rodgers, K. J., & Kong, Y., & Diefes-Dux, H. A., & Madhavan, K. (2014, June), First-Year Engineering Students’ Communication of Nanotechnology Size & Scale in a Design Challenge Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/20500
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