From Proposals to Building Plans: A NanOstUdio is Born

by Alex Jeanneret

A new state of the art NanOstUdio will soon find its home in Stocker Center. The name of the new studio exercises the creative side of the brain, which is just what proposer Dr. Savas Kaya (professor at Russ College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) intends. The proposal, made two years ago, sought to build an interactive learning space for undergraduate students that would emphasize the creative sides of nanotechnology. Creativity may not be a term explicitly associated with the nanoworld, yet, Kaya wants to change this notion and bring a better comprehensive aspect to nanotechnology. “I want to show students why nanotechnology affects their lives each day” Kaya said, “and still make it fun”.

After suggested alterations to the plans and bylines, he was officially offered a grant from NSF this year. Dr. Kaya’s initial interest in the production of such a place began with this question “How do you turn research into education?”

“I was with my kids at COSI” Kaya said “when I realized how much we needed a relaxed atmosphere for students to interact on a nanoscale”.

Sterile lab settings can seem unapproachable to undergraduates and this coupled with the daunting notion of nanotechnology could shun students from the field entirely.

In the last five years things have gotten smaller and smaller. Think about the life span of the ipod, remember when they were bigger than our cell phones? Nanotechnology has a huge impact on our lives, and unfortunately many students have not been given the opportunity to delve into it.

“They don’t know why it matters, yet” Dr. Kaya states, “the only way is to show them.”

Though the plans for the studio are still in the beginning stages, Dr. Kaya hopes to have a working SEM (scanning electron microscopy) system, a table top AFM, and other forms of spectroscopy teaching equipment.
“Most undergraduate students do not get to work with these types of equipment until their senior year” which is hardly enough time for a seed of passion in microscale and nanoscale studies to sprout.

The studio is intended to be a comfortable place where undergraduates can lead seminars and teach their peers how to operate different pieces of research equipment. They will be encouraged to show contrasting samples and how the nanoscale differs from those on a micro or macro scale.

“Nano is much more sensitive” Kaya said “which is sometimes misconstrued as more difficult” (instead of just different).

But how do you make nanotechnology interactive? “We want to involve computer science in the studio”. Not only will interaction between students be encouraged, but also virtual interactions will be made readily available. There could be an ipad station where students may browse through folders of information compiled on specific subjects. “We also want to have a station where we project images that can be viewed through 3D goggles.”

The NanOstUdio strives to ultimately be mobile. “We could take it to high schools, show it in expos, and open houses in addition to the fixed hours we will be operating in Stocker” Kaya said.

NQPI, CMSS, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, as well as the Office of Academic Research are providing additional funds for the project.