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Elementary students visit TEC-SMART for day of hands-on learning

Kids from area schools took part in an Educational and Interactive Nanotechnology activities day at HVCC’s TEC-SMART Malta Campus on Thursday Oct. 4. From magic sand to polymer worms, they were engaged in activities with an educational component.

Kids from area schools took part in an Educational and Interactive Nanotechnology activities day at HVCC’s TEC-SMART Malta Campus on Thursday Oct. 4. From magic sand to polymer worms, they were engaged in activities with an educational component. Photo by Julie Cushine-Rigg.

— Diane Irwin, coordinator of the science department at Ballston Spa schools said one of the key concepts within the elementary school science curriculum is matter and its different properties. The magic sand activity was tailored to highlight that.

“We can kind of link it because you have playground sand and you have magic sand – well, why aren’t they acting the same way?” she said. “And so you can kind of talk about well, the atoms are arranged differently.”

She added the kids learn a lot through the activities, including how to think using probing, scientific questions.

“They love doing all kinds of investigations and predictions and wonder,” Irwin said.

At another station, students got to try on clean room gowns.

“The number one area of concern with any clean room is contamination. … Even one dust particle on a (silicon) wafer destroys it,” said Ricky Thibodeau, associate director of NEATEC.

Steve Stewart, an instructional support technician for the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany, headed up the gowning activity and called Albany a “hot spot” for nanoscience. He also said in the next decade, jobs in the industry are expected to top two million.

“We’re in partnerships with many colleges and high schools. … This outreach is to help stimulate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) technology – to get the kids back interested in science and seeing how easy it is. We get them as young as we can and show them simple science and how that becomes complex,” said Stewart.

HVCC’s part, aside from hosting the day, was to get students excited about nanotechnology. The college’s TEC-SMART campus focuses on career education in technology-driven industries.

Penny Hill, the associate dean at TEC-SMART, said the level of interest the students were exhibiting at the activities day was encouraging. She said the event has been in planning since the early summer.

“My role … is to enjoy the interactions that I see with people who are in the field,” said Hill.

Once outside, many of the kids were anxious to show and tell Thibodeau their newly made bracelets from a UV Beads Lesson, who in turn told them if the day were sunny, their bracelets would have been brighter. One could almost see the students themselves lighting up with understanding.

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