Hatter Seminar examines nanotechnologies

Some of the world’s leading experts in nanotechnology have been brought to London for the seventh annual World ORT Hatter Technology Seminar – Nanotechnology and Material Science: From Research to Classroom.

This week, academics from the USA, Israel and United Kingdom are coming to ORT House to share their formidable knowledge of the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale – where the technology is now, how it is expected to develop, what coming generations will need to know to be able to ride the wave and how to teach it to them.

Among them is Dr Boris Berenfeld, Director of the International Centre at the Concord Consortium. For nearly 20 years, Dr Berenfeld has focused on the use of technology to enhance students’ learning in collaborative science projects and on the development of new generations of learning materials in physics, chemistry and biology that utilise atomic and molecular computational models.

“It is my deep conviction that in the same way in the 1980s we were talking about Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literacy now it’s high time to talk about molecular and atomic literacy to prepare new generations of students in nanoscience,” Dr Berenfeld said. “By 2020 we will need a large number of ‘nanoworkers’.”

Indeed, it is estimated that more than 800 nanotech products are already publicly available. And nanotechnology has the potential to create many new materials and devices with applications in medicine, electronics, energy production, textiles, defence and even computing.

Dr Berenfeld, who was one of several top academics involved in re-establishing ORT in Russia in the late 1980s, says ORT is well placed to spearhead knowledge of nanotechnology in high schools.

“ORT has experience in bringing cutting edge technologies to different places since the 1900s whether it was electricity and later electronics and high tech. So it’s natural for ORT to enter the nanotechnology field,” he said.

“Why should students choose to study nanotechnology? Telling them it’s important won’t suffice; you have to engage them through involving them in hands-on exploration, you have to give them tools to answer their own questions, you have to motivate them,” Dr Berenfeld said.

The Hatter Seminar’s 18 participants – science and technology teachers and other educators from Israel, Italy, South Africa, Lithuania, Russia, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Argentina, USA, France and Ukraine – experienced a lecture cum master class with Dr Berenfeld under the heading Molecular Workbench: Reasoning with Atomic-Scale Models in Preparation for Nanotechnology and Biotechnology Careers.

Other speakers this week include Professor Lesley Cohen, Head of Solid State Physics at Imperial College, London, with a general introduction to nanotechnology; Dr Sergey Gordeev, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of Bath, with an examination of the problems of existing electronics and what the prospects and problems may be of using molecules as building blocks of future electronics; and Dr Mark Miodownik, Head of the Materials Research Group at Kings College, London, with an investigation into the essential difference between animate and inanimate matter, a line of questioning that could one day result in the creation of objects which can repair themselves.

The Hatter Seminar also features a presentation by Clive Roberts, Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology at the University of Nottingham, on current research in his field, products that have been developed and future possibilities; Dr Simon Henley, who researches the nanotechnological application of pulsed lasers at the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute, discusses uses of nanomaterials, particularly in sensing, future electronics, energy generation and healthcare; and a videoconference with Uri Peskin, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the Technion in Israel to discuss the implementation of a new module in Israel’s chemistry curriculum, From Nano-Scale Chemistry to Microelectronics.

Entrepreneur Kam Memarzia is introducing Hatter participants to NanoMission, the world’s first scientifically accurate interactive 3-D learning game based on improving the understanding of nanoscience and nanotechnology among school students. The aim of his product, which would work well on the up-to-date computers with which ORT schools are equipped, to inspire and introduce some of the world’s brightest teenagers to nanotechnology, opening their eyes to choosing it as a career.

One of the seminar’s participants, Deputy Director of ORT in the CIS and Baltic States Sergey Gorinskiy so described his impressions: “To be honest, I have been thinking a little critically about a seminar theme. It seemed in some way far from the real content of syllabus of Physics, Chemistry and Biology … But, having communicated to colleagues from the different countries, I have seen that including  the units linked to advanced achievements of a science and technologies into the school curriculum  been added within decades of, is very important for motivation of school students.

For me as for former University teacher it was always important that entering students had deep knowledge of Maths and Classical Physics. The rest knowledge I would give them at the University. If any student knows the bases deeply but had not ever heard about the semiconductors, it doesn’t matter. But if any other student knows about nanotechnologies and quantum transition by hearsay but his mathematical way of thinking had not been developed, I could not be able to do anything with this.

But there still such thing as human mentality is. A student, who had been provided with a basis of a classical science at a high level, leaves school with impression that all had already been made in science and technologies. Newton had put the beginnings and Einstein had finished all. So what should he enter Physical and Physics and Technology Faculty for?

That is why it is very important to motivate the future researches, developers and users of new technologies. And nanotechnologies studying can become the fine tool of school students’ orientation on career in the field of science and modern technologies. Some participants of the seminar demonstrated how  it could be not only told but shown as well at the level of the senior classes how modern nanotechnologies are used for the solving of such daily problems, as, for example, … cleanliness of windows of our houses keeping.

In the near future we will receive from our colleagues in London materials of the seminar and we will make them available to teachers of ORT Schools in the CIS and Baltic States”.

Elena Darovskaya, the Physics, Astronomy and Science Teacher of Moscow ORT Technology School (Secondary School no. 1299) pointed out: “Seminar’s Program has been constructed so that each of participants of the seminar: Biology teacher, Physics teacher, Chemistry teacher and ICT teacher could found something new and interesting in the performances brought to their attention. Not only themes but forms of participants’ activity were various: from traditional lectures up to studying of material in the form of computer game and working in the special interactive educational environment.

The lasting impression was made the BETT exhibition, visiting of which had been put in the seminar’s itinerary. Interactive environments of training, variety of computer educational programs, large quantity of interactive boards with embedded interfaces and educational libraries, USB-microscopes with magnification up to 500 …».

Eugene Sodin, Technology Teacher of ORT Technology Centre at the Kharkov Technology Lyceum no.9 though noticed that the most part of the seminar had been focused on teaching in high school, wrote: «As a whole the seminar was pleasant very much, there were many interesting themes... By results of the seminar I had already planned and have partially conducted the lesson «Acquaintance with the Nanotechnologies» in the 5th and 6th grades. For the 5th -6th grades students only some elements were presented, but as for the senior grades which already have Biology and Physics trainings, it is possible to present it in details and to plan a series of trainings and work-shops».

Angele Borodinene, Physics and Astronomy Teacher of the Vilnius Jewish ORT Shalom Aleichemo School so describes her impressions: «Creative and friendly atmosphere of work was pleasant. I was surprised by the seminar organisation – it was at a very high level. And I would like express my deep gratitude for ORT for providing possibility of professional improvement!”

World ORT Director General Robert Singer thanked Sir Maurice and his family for their devoted support to ORT’s need to equip its teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to tackle topics and issues that will dominate the educational curriculum in years to come.

Irina Silaeva, Head of PR Department, ORT Russia, Belarus and Central Asia