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Nano Bite: August 2014

Welcome to the August Nano Bite, the monthly e-newsletter for the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net).


  • NISE Net News and Announcements 2015 Mini-Grant Program Open and Accepting Applications
  • Upcoming Events! - Apply for the 2014 RISE Workshop on "Implementing the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum," Brown-Bag Conversations, Sign up for the NISE Net Reception Special Event at 2014 ASTC
  • Featured on the Website - Making the Most of Your Nano Mini-Exhibition, International Year of Crystallography 2014, National Chemistry Week, International Year of Light 2015
  • Partner Highlight - Inspiring Students and Teachers Across the Globe: NanoDays in South Africa; Robots, Bees, and Nano, Oh My!: NanoDays at the Delaware Museum of Natural History
  • Nano in the News - The Chemical Story Behind Nano-Petroleum-Based Plastics


2015 Mini-Grant Program Now Accepting Applications (Due October 1, 2014)!
Are you looking to engage your local community in nano topics but need some project support? Then don’t miss out on the opportunity to apply for the NISE Network’s 2015 Mini-Grant Program, which provides a limited number of awards of up to $3,000 to fund small projects or to complement a larger endeavor.

Find examples of past projects, eligibility requirements, and more information on how to apply in the 2015 Mini-Grants Program Overview. Looking for ideas to help spark some creative project planning or interested in learning about past projects? Search summaries of past mini-grants online at

2014 RISE Workshop on "Implementing the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum"
This immersive workshop will show NISE Network partners how to implement the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum, a successful model for training researchers and graduate students how to engage museum visitors though hands-on demonstrations. The workshop will take place at the Museum of Science in Boston from November 14-16, 2014. Learn more about this workshop and apply today! Applications are due by Wednesday, August 20th.

Online Brown-Bag Conversations
The NISE Network’s Brown-Bag Conversations are free, informal, one-hour online conversations designed to allow the community learn about what others in the Network are doing, ask questions, and share work.
The next brown-bags are:
All past online brown-bag conversations are recorded and available online at
Planning Ahead for the 2014 ASTC Annual Conference
As you're booking your flights or planning your travel to the upcoming ASTC Annual Conference in Raleigh, NC, please consider joining us for these pre-conference NISE Network activities. 

NISE Network Workshop "From Demonstration to Conversation: Engaging Visitors in Technology and Society"
Friday, 10/17; 9am - 4pm.
Sign up for this workshop when completing your ASTC registration.

NISE Network Reception Special Event
Friday, 10/17; 4pm - 7pm.
Spend an evening with your fellow community partners and help us celebrate 10 years of the NISE Network! This is FREE to attend and transportation will be provided from the Raleigh Convention Center to and from the Museum of Life and Science. Please register here.

See the full list of conference activities at

Meetings and Conferences
  • ASTC – Raleigh, NC – October 17 - 21, 2014
  • 2014 MRS Fall Meeting – Boston, MA – November 30 - December 5, 2014
  • AAAS – San Jose, CA – February 12 - 16, 2015
  • ACM Interactivity 2015 – Indianapolis, IN – May 13 - 15, 2015
Making the Most of Your Nano Mini-Exhibition - A series of blog posts that provides partners with loads of Nano mini-exhibition information including Getting Started, Shipping and Receiving, and the Marketing Guide!
International Year of Crystallography 2014 - We're halfway through the year and there's still time to incorporate activities into your programming to help increase the public's awareness of the science of crystallography and how it underpins most technological developments in our modern society.

National Chemistry Week - Are you planning ahead for October? The NISE Network will be hosting a brown-bag conversation in early October highlighting NanoDays activities that can be used in collaboration with National Chemistry Week.

International Year of Light 2015 - The global initiative for 2015 is to make citizens more aware of the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives, for their futures, and for the development of society. Start planning ahead with these related activities!


Inspiring Students and Teachers Across the Globe: NanoDays in South Africa
By Jamey Wetmore, Center for Nanotechnology in Society, Arizona State University

The plan at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU) for NanoDays 2014 was originally pretty simple: train a couple dozen graduate students and have them present demonstrations in a tent to some of the over 200,000 visitors at the Tempe Festival for the Arts. Then came the phone call: "Do you also want to do NanoDays in South Africa this year?" Um. Sure?
After realizing that they knew nothing about science education in Africa, Jamey Wetmore and Matt Harsh packed a handful of table top demos from previous years’ NanoDays kits and flew to Cape Town. They needn’t have worried. Despite the fact that they traveled over 10,000 miles to get there, once they arrived they found the science centres and staff in South Africa more familiar than they expected.  The Cape Town Science Centre’s motto "Inspiring Our Future" sums up the goals of many US science centers and the museum professionals in South Africa were energetic and dedicated to educating children and their families.
So in early April they introduced chemistry graduate students at the University of the Western Cape, as well as science museum staff from the Cape Town Science Centre and the Arcelor-Mittal Science Centre, to NISE Net and a number of NanoDays activities. Then for two days they went live and presented to home school families and school groups at the Cape Town Science Centre. The demos were a hit with the students and staff, both of whom hope to integrate NISE Net materials into their education programs.

Read the full story about NanoDays in South Africa on the NISE Net Partner Highlight blog. For questions or comments, please contact NISE Network partner Jamey Wetmore at [email protected].

Robots, Bees, and Nano, Oh My!: NanoDays at the Delaware Museum of Natural History
By Jayatri Das, The Franklin Institute

Many of our favorite applications of nanotechnology—from water-repellent fabric to iridescent materials—are inspired by nature. These connections have made nano programming a great fit for many of the NISE Network’s natural history museum partners, including the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DelMNH). But visitors aren’t always aware of the link between nature and technology, says Kari Lawrence, the Museum’s education manager, so programs like NanoDays offer a chance to highlight this cutting-edge science while also building new relationships in their community.

As part of the 2014 NanoDays events, the Delaware Museum of Natural History reached out to diverse partners to expand their programming, ranging from beekeeping to robotics to University of Delaware scientists. While beekeeping might not have obvious connections to nanotechnology, the Museum worked with someone who specialized in dissecting bees and looking at the various types of pollen under microscopes, illustrating a key nano-related skill for many students. Similarly, local FIRST Robotics teams tied in their activities to those included in the NanoDays kit, helping visitors understand the connections. An added benefit, says Kari, was that "the teams that came were of all ages, so it connected really well with schools and families of all ages. Visitors liked the addition of the partnerships, since it brought in new and exciting things to the Museum."

Continue reading about how the Delaware Museum of Natural History continues to build partnerships forged through NanoDays and the lasting benefits they have on the museum. For more information on DelMNH visit, or contact Jayatri Das from The Franklin Institute and the NISE Net Mid-Atlantic Regional Hub Leader.


Featured Findings: Updates from NISE Network Evaluation and Research
What topics peak NISE Network partner interest?

If the NISE Network were to focus on another topic besides nano after August 2015, Annual Partner Survey takers thought that energy, new emerging technologies, engineering, and convergent technologies (nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive neuroscience) were the top four topics the Network should pursue. For more information, read the full Evaluation and Research blog post.
The Chemical Story Behind Nano-Petroleum-Based Plastics
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 32 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2012, making up almost 13 percent of municipal solid waste. Plastics (or synthetic polymers) make up everyday products from beverage containers, plastic ware and bags, to toys, packaging, and furniture. With less than 10 percent of total plastic waste being recovered for recycling (, 2014), more plastic waste is finding its way to landfills and into the ocean polluting these ecosystems, and taking hundreds of years to break down.

However, there are plastics that are designed to break down rapidly upon disposal known as biodegradable plastics, and they are gaining popularity. Biodegradable plastics can be easily broken down by organisms, such as bacteria, in nature. Instead of hundreds of years to breakdown (but not fully decompose), biodegradable plastics, with the assistance of organisms, take only a few months to fully decompose. Scientists are developing biodegradable plastics synthesized from corn, bacteria, and even from chemicals found in the shells of crustaceans like shrimp. With the manipulation of materials at the nanoscale, scientists are creating cutting-edge synthetic plastics providing improved consumer options and more environmental friendly products. Read more about these biodegradable plastics in this Sustainable Nano article.

Related NISE Network activities and resources:
  • Nanoparticle Pollutants - a NISE Net linked product K-12 lesson plan that explores plastic pollution on land and oceans and the breakdown of their materials. Students examine how these particles might become ingested and cross membranes into cells.
  • Exploring Nanotechnology through Consumer Products - a NISE Net linked product K-12 lesson plan that allows students to explore consumer products, create a presentation, test their product, or research a career in nanotechnology.
  • Nano Around the World - a NISE Net short activity card game designed to get participants to reflect on the potential uses of nanotechnology across the globe.
  • Nano Careers short video is a NISE Net linked product developed by Science Alberta and gets kids thinking big about nano careers by starting to think very small!
  • Plastics are Fantastic: Better Products through Nano - a NanoNerds YouTube video that explores the properties of plastics.
A list of nano activities for use throughout the year is available on the NISE Net’s list of seasonal activities.

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Read the Nano Bite e-newsletter online at

Do you have something you would like to submit for inclusion in the NISE Network Nano Bite monthly e-newsletter? Please send your announcements, articles, or community acknowledgements to Kayla Berry, NISE Network Coordinator, at [email protected].