Introduction to Nanotechnology

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This kit comes with three different parts, which are best used in sequential order:

  1. In "The Scale of a Nanometer," students are introduced to the nanometer by imagining that a large circle in a room represents the end of a human hair and then by looking at several "balls" (playing ball, baseball, golf ball, small ball, marble, and grain of salt) to estimate the relative size of a nanometer.
  2. The teacher presents a PowerPoint called "Thinking Big, Working Small" that introduces the amazing possibilities of nanotechnology. Students then watch a ten minute movie on the work that scientists and engineers do at Nano-CEMMS. A worksheet for middle school or high school level accompanies the movie.
  3. Finally, in a supplemental "Group Research Project on Nanotechnology," students to do research in teams of 2-3 students on topics of their choosing. Some of the possible topics include the following:
    • What is nanotechnology?
    • What are cleanrooms like?
    • What are the current and possible future applications of nanotechnology?
    • What is it like to be a nanotechnology student?
    • What are other career options for those who study mathematics, physics, chemistry, materials science, computer science, and engineering?
    • Are there any ethical issues associated with nanotechnology?



Instruction Time:

  • Part 1: 3 minutes
  • Part 2: 30 to 35 minutes
  • Part 3: four or five 50 minute sessions


Middle or high school students


  1. Students will know the small scale of a nanometer. They will know that a nanometer is about 1/80,000 the size of a human hair.
  2. Students will learn about nanotechnology and its importance. They will learn about new careers in the field and will understand how Nano-CEMMS researchers collaborate.
  3. Students will become further acquainted with the nature of science, by participating in group research on a nanoscience and nanotechnology-based topic, writing about their findings in an outline or paper, creating an informative poster, presenting their findings to their peers, and individually taking a test over the presentations.


  • National Science Education Standards:

    • Content Standard E: Understanding about Science and Technology.
    • Content Standard F: Understandings about Science and Technology in Local, National, and Global Challenges.
    • Content Standard G: Science as a Human Endeavor
  • NCTM Standards:

    • Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement.
  • Illinois State Science Learning Standards:

    • 12.C.3b: Model and describe the chemical and physical characteristics of matter (e.g., atoms, molecules, elements, compounds, mixtures).
    • 13.B.5b: Analyze and describe the processes and effects of scientific and technological breakthroughs.
    • 13.B.5e: Assess how scientific and technological progress has affected other fields of study, careers, and job markets and aspects of everyday life.
  • Illinois State Math Learning Standards:

    • 7.A.4a: Apply units and scales to describe and compare numerical data and physical objects.
  • Illinois State Language Arts Learning Standards:

    • 3.A.4: Use standard English to edit docu ments for clarity, subject/verb agreement, adverb and adjective agreement and verb tense; proofread for spelling, capitalization and punctuation; and ensure that documents are formatted in final form for submission and/or publication.
    • 4.A.4a: Apply listening skills as individuals and members of a group in a variety of settings (e.g., lectures, discussions, conversa tions, team projects, presentations, interviews).
    • 4.B.4b: Use group discussion skills to assume leadership and participant roles within an assigned project or to reach a group goal.
    • 5.A.5b: Research, design, and present a project to an academic, business, or school community audience on a topic selected from among contemporary issues.
    • 5.C.4b: Produce oral presentations and written documents using supportive research and incorporating contemporary technology.


  • "Scale of a Nanometer" Activity Guide
  • piece of rope with ends connected
  • pair of scissors
  • beach ball
  • pump to inflate ball
  • small wiffle ball
  • plastic golf ball
  • small ball
  • marble
  • "Grain of Salt" card
  • Sharpie
  • "Thinking Big, Working Small" Activity Guide
  • 1 evaluation
  • 30 assessments
  • PowerPoint presentation, "Thinking Big, Working Small" movie, and documents on CDs
  • overhead transparencies of PowerPoint slides
  • 30 worksheets--middle or high school level
  • worksheet key--middle or high school level
  • vial of colloidal gold nanoparticles
  • ferrofluid display cell
  • 5 laminated copies of "The Scale of Things"
  • "Group Research Project on Nanotechnology" Teacher Guide
  • "Group Research Project on Nanotechnology" Student Copy
  • "Group Research Project on Nanotechnology" Grading Rubric

Teacher Needs:

  • LCD or overhead projector
  • access to Internet and/or library.
  • poster-making materials: posterboard, markers, etc.

Online Documents: