Partner Highlight: Arkansas Discovery Network

Aaron Guerrero

The NISE Net hosted a series of 4 Nano & Society workshops this past fall that focused on preparing museum educators to engage the public in conversations about the relationship between nanotechnology and society. In addition to learning new hands-on activities, full-length programs, and ideas for facilitating visitor experiences in the Nano mini-exhibition, workshop participants received specific training in nano and society content, conversation facilitation, and utilizing Team-Based Inquiry (TBI).

Following their involvement in the train the trainer-style workshop, Jill Kary from the Arkansas State University Museum, Joel Gordon and Thomas Lipham from the Museum of Discovery held a Nano presentation on February 4th for 19 educators from the Arkansas Discovery Network. The Arkansas Discovery Network, founded in 2006 with funding from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, is a unique, six-museum partnership with the Museum of Discovery acting as the statewide hub. It has served more than 2 million Arkansans through programs, a mobile museum, teacher workshops and free access scholarships.

All the new educators attending received an orientation of NISE Net, NanoDays, and nisenet.org. In addition, the three leaders of the Nano presentation discussed Nano 101, led improv activities, and shared information from the 2012 fall workshop on Nano & Society.  Joel Gordon also took the opportunity to show everyone a nano activity developed using a NISE Net mini-grant. 

In this activity, visitors create a replica product representing the mix of double-walled carbon nanotubes and cross-linkable organic polymers like polyvinylalchohol (PVA). The replica product, called “Oogoo,” is simply a mixture of clear silicone caulk and corn starch.  By adding the cornstarch to an already useful product like silicone, visitors create a compound that is more versatile and workable. Oogoo can be shaped like putty, placed in a mold to form an object, or formed around an object to create a mold.  Like carbon nanotubes added to a polymer, the addition of graphite to the uncured Oogoo creates a material that is electrically conductive.  As visitors explore Ooogoo and its properties, facilitators will discuss nanoscale science, engineering, and technology and how it translates to everyday living.

For more information, visit www.arkansasdiscoverynetwork.org.