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Rice UniversityCBEN
Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology

Community Programs

The Matter Factory and the Children's Museum of Houston

The Matter Factory

The Matter Factory at the Children's Museum of Houston

CBEN is partnering with the Children’s Museum of Houston (CMH) in development of The Matter Factory which is part of the museum’s expansion that is anticipated to be completed by March 2009. Drs. Hutchinson and Nichol meet regularly with CMH design staff and have provided nanotechnology and materials-science expertise to guide their planning, construction, and evaluation, especially on a carbon self-assembly exhibit.

The exhibit is designed to expand the age range of students attending the museum with displays that targets 8- to 12-yr-old students. The main components of the exhibit will be:

  • Sensory Entry: Simple hands-on and body-on activities introduce properties of matter
  • Object Sorting: A group activity area that teaches basic materials properties to younger visitors
  • Property Testing: Activity area introduces older children (8 to 12 yr old) to advanced properties and states of matter
  • Smart Materials: Activities demonstrate new materials and new applications
  • Nano-Science. A “scale-shift” area where children explore matter at the micro- and nano-level.

Nano Days

Nano Days Encapsulated Kid

Chris at Nanodays

NanoDays at the CMH

CBEN graduate students, faculty, and staff worked with the CMH staff to develop and host the NISE-Net Nano-Days program on March 28, 29 and 30, 2008. CBEN organized and participated in the “Ask the Scientist” sessions, in a discussion-based format designed to educate the museum attendees about nanotechnology and its relevance. This included both a podium session with CBEN faculty Dr. Doug Natelson, and a mini-poster session with graduate students sharing their research. Natelson discussed the importance of S&E in everyday things and highlighted how nanotechnology is present in the electronics we use daily. He engaged students with a demonstration of how the Nintendo (R) Wii controller works and how it measures accelleration. Students were particularly fascinated when Natelson took apart the Wii controller (or Wii-mote) and showed the different components, including the accelerometers chip and a scanning electron microscope slide showing the details of its construction. Graduate students entertained and taught students about applications of nanotechnology and showed how their research might impact students' lives. In addition, graduate students hosted demonstrations and activity tables that included topics such as Seeing Scale, Smelling Scale, Invisible Sunblock, Environmental Cleanup, and made a three-story balloon sculpture of a nanotube.






Sally Ride Festival and Additional Outreach

Chemistry Magic Show (Sally Ride Festival)

 Dr. McHale discussing fullerenes with middle school girls at the Sally Ride Festival.

CBEN is extending its outreach efforts to engage the Houston community by partnering with other institutions. For example, CBEN hosted two workshops entitled “Nanotechnology, Fun with the Very Small” for 75 girls at the Sally Ride Science Festival at Rice University on October 28, 2007. The major sponsors of this festival were the Rice Space Institute and Deloitte. In addition, on October 17, 2007, CBEN and the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering (IBB) cosponsored a seminar as part of “2nd Annual France-U.S.A Science & Technology Workshop” (see Section 12) to provide faculty and graduate students with an overview of the technological research at the CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission). Dr. Jean-Marc Grognet, Scientific Affairs Director, CEA, highlighted the research as he pointed out opportunities for collaboration and internships. Approximately 40 faculty members and graduate students from Rice University and the Texas Medical Center attended this event.



Continuing Education

Many of our Center’s members are already involved in bringing the excitement of nanoscience to the public through a “Frontiers of Science” course offered by the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. This 8-week lecture course has been enormously popular, with enrollments exceeding 80 attendees in 2002. Our Center provided speakers and materials to further expand this very successful program in Fall 2004 through a course titled, “Nanotechnology: What’s So Big About the Science of the Very Small?” drawing an attendance of 67. The course was offered again in Fall 2006 with an enrollment of 60. The Glasscock School plans to offer this course again in the fall of 2009.

Glasscock School of Continuing Studies