This project establishes the Midwest Regional Center for Nanotechnology Education (NANO-LINK), building upon the success of Dakota County Technical College's ATE MnNANO project in partnership with the University of Minnesota. That project developed a pioneering multidisciplinary AAS degree program designed to prepare graduates for markets where the broader field of nanoscience is emerging.

NANO-LINK is designed to provide resources and support to colleges along the Midwest corridor from North Dakota to Michigan as they develop similar programs to grow a skilled nanoscience technician workforce that will foster economic growth in nanoscale science and technology in the region. Six two-year colleges in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan have partnered to develop NANO-LINK along with two research universities in the region--the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University.

NANO-LINK focuses on seven key goals: establish a Midwest Regional Industry Advisory Board; develop multidisciplinary nanoscience programs; partner with the University of Minnesota to provide remote access delivery for nanoscience experiences in pre-capstone and capstone courses; partner with the NSF National Center for Learning and Teaching Technology in Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NCLT) at Northwestern University to provide professional development for secondary educators and college faculty; establish a clearinghouse infrastructure for undergraduate instructional materials; develop outreach activities to enhance recruitment of students into nanoscience programs, with an emphasis on underrepresented students; and provide venues for dissemination including an annual nanoscience conference for faculty, students, alumni, and industry.

The Intellectual Merit of this project is based on the wide availability of a multidisciplinary nanoscience technician education curriculum in an emerging field of science and engineering, which greatly impacts our nation's competitiveness and future job growth in many industries, such as biotechnology, medical devices, agriculture, materials, and electronics. It is also building coordinated partnerships among regional educational institutions and industries that enable them to offer quality nanoscience educational programs as well as training for incumbent workers

The Broader Impact of this project is that it supports coordinated adaptation of a multidisciplinary Nanoscience Technology program for technician education at community and technical colleges throughout the region. It is partnering with NCLT to provide professional development opportunities for educators and preparing them to infuse modules into nanoscience and STEM curricula. It is partnering with the University of Minnesota to deliver a high level capstone experience as well as unique remote access educational experiences with a focus on instrumentation in capstone and pre-capstone courses. The clearinghouse offers best practice nanoscience lecture and laboratory curricula materials for use by faculty teaching courses in undergraduate programs. Materials and activities are being developed to enhance the recruitment of students into the nanoscience programs. The benefit to society is that high quality educational programs prepare nanoscience technicians to meet the emerging needs of industry.

Project Report

Nano-Link Nano-Link is a Regional Center for Nanotechnology Education. The lead institution is Dakota County Technical College based in Rosemount Minnesota. Nano-Link is comprised of six community colleges and the University of Minnesota with six additional affiliate educational institutions. The focus of Nano-Link is to provide technician training for the growing area of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is the ability to observe, measure, study and create materials at the molecular and atomic scale. From this broad definition, it is clear that nanotechnology will impact all traditional science and engineering disciplines as well as multiple market segments. As such, the industry demand for trained technicians is high and expected to grow significantly over the next decade. In fact, the industry demand for this skill labor force is greater than the numberof program graduates within the Midwest region. Nano-Link not only creates and provides content for technician training (AAS Degree) programs but also creates hands on based, modularized content that has been used by industry, educators for grades K though 14, civic organizations and informal education venues such as science museums. Acknowledging the interest in nanotechnology, educators desire to integrate nanoscience concepts into classes and curriculum. To aid this integration Nano-Link has created nanoscale educational concepts in a modular format. These modules contain all information needed -- correlation to traditional concepts and standards, background information, videos and related articles and application examples. In addition, each module has a fun, hands on activity for students - worksheets included! Workshops for educators are offered to help instructors learn how to use these modules and where they may fit best into their specific courses. We reach over 200 educators per year with these workshops. Nano-Link also supports many direct, informal outreach to students of all ages at various STEM expos, career fairs, science fairs and class visits to our partner educational institutions. Over 15,000 students have experienced nanotechnology "hands-on" by these activities. Serving the needs of Nano-Link program students and faculty, Nano-Link sponsors a conference each year. Conference presenters include industry speakers - covering how they are applying nanoscience and discussing what they are looking for in their employees. Panels comprised of program graduates offer insight into the job world as well as struggles and successes. Nano-Link has provided nanoscience technicians to regional industry, given many students the foundation and confidence to go after four year degrees, served to educate the public about nanotechnology and has created educational content that is being used through the United States to bring the exciting world of nanotechnology to a broad audience.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
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Duncan E. McBride
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Dakota County Technical College
United States
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