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Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Concepts For High School Students: The Scanning Probe Microscope

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Engineering in High School

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.948.1 - 11.948.9



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Paper Authors


Venkat Chandrasekhar Northwestern University

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Professor Venkat Chandrasekhar is a physics professor at Northwestern University. His research interests lie in the measurement of quantum-mechanical effects in mesoscopic systems.

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Marcel Grdinic Glenbrook North High School

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Nathan Unterman Glenbrook North High School

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R.P.H. Chang Northwestern University

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Emma Tevaarwerk Northwestern University

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

Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Concepts for High School Students: Scanning Probe Microscopy


While nanoscience and nanotechnology are not typically thought of as topics for the high school classroom, introducing such cutting-edge research provides a means to motivate student interest in science and engineering. The interdisciplinary nature of nanoscience & engineering allows for a wide range of topics including physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics to be taught within the exciting context of cutting-edge research. As part of the National Center for Learning and Teaching (NCLT) in Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Northwestern University is developing and testing concepts in nanoscience and nanotechnology. The nano-concept material (NCM) is based on a series of hands-on activities. The NCM are developed in close collaboration with high school teachers and are field-tested for feasibility. Learning theory is incorporated into the development of the materials with the assistance of education specialists.

One set of nano-concept materials is being developed around a key measurement technique in nanoscience, scanning probe microscopy. Scanning probe microscopy is an important measurement technique for nanoscience and engineering, and provides a platform from which to teach basic science concepts such as measurements and forces. We will discuss the “hands-on” activities developed to teach concepts in scanning probe microscopy, as well as an assessment on how the materials fit into high school and middle school science curricula. Initial findings from a prototype design project show that the design project was successful in engaging student interest, and that the macroscopic models and activities were helpful in facilitating student understanding of how a scanning probe microscope works. All of the students were able to successfully build a working atomic force microscope and acquire an image.


The introduction of the “iPod Nano” this past year is proof enough that the word “nano” has entered into the mainstream of public awareness. The buzz about nanoscience and nanotechnology is that it may generate up to $1 trillion/year in new business in everything from pharmaceuticals to computers. To support this new business, it is estimated that we will need 3 million workers trained in nanotechnology worldwide over the next ten to fifteen years.1 The challenge of preparing a nano-educated workforce lies largely in the hands of our educational system, and until recently has been limited mostly to graduate programs at research universities. However, within the past decade the importance of introducing concepts in nanoscience and nanotechnology at an earlier stage has surfaced.

As part of a national effort to educate students of all levels in nanoscience and nanotechnology, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently designated $15 million to create a National Center for Learning and Teaching (NCLT) in Nanoscale Science and Engineering.2 The NCLT is based at Northwestern University, and involves

Chandrasekhar, V., & Grdinic, M., & Unterman, N., & Chang, R., & Tevaarwerk, E. (2006, June), Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Concepts For High School Students: The Scanning Probe Microscope Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--477

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