Introducing Nanotechnology to Mechanical and Civil Engineering Students Through Materials Science Courses

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Four junior faculty members from the Mechanical and Civil Engineering Departments at the University of New Mexico (UNM) have developed new experiments and pedagogical methods that introduce undergraduate students to the field of nanotechnology. Toward this effort, we introduced "Nanotechnology Discovery Courses" that comprise two interlocking undergraduate engineering materials science core courses enriched with three nanotechnology modules and four hands-on nanotechnology experiments. Using this framework ensured continuous flow of nanotechnology concepts to a senior level technical elective course that equips students with hands-on experience in constructing nano/micro systems and devices. Between the two leading departments of the project 153 undergraduate students were exposed to the nanotechnology discovery courses by their junior year during the academic years 2008–2009. The developed nanomodules, while familiarizing UNM students with nanotechnology, did not strain the outline of classical material science courses nor did it financially burden the students (for example, there were no extra lab fees). Affirmative survey indicated that more than 67% of the students strongly favored the newly implemented nanomodules. Furthermore, 65% of the surveyed students preferred including nanotechnology in the core courses rather than a standalone course. Students favored the hands on experiments that required minimal calibration (Scanning electron microscopy) compared to experiments that required intensive calibration and post analysis of data (for example, nanoindentation). Based on the success of this pilot research, several undergraduate students participated in nanotechnology research at UNM. The major finding of this investigation is that nanotechnology education can be introduced to the engineering curricula by incorporating nanotechnology modules in core courses, mentoring undergraduate students in nanotechnology research, and introducing a standalone senior-level nanosytems course.
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  • The Journal of Nano Education (JNE) is a peer-reviewed international journal that aims to provide the most complete and reliable source of information on current developments in nanoscale science, technology, engineering, and medical education.
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