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Nanotechnology taught in Mexico schools, but not U.S.

Nanotechnology will soon be taught in Mexico’s public schools, but Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post explains that it’s a different story in the U.S.:

Scientist Robert P.H. Chang of Northwestern University had no trouble persuading education officials in Mexico to introduce the burgeoning field of nanotechnology to schools there, but it’s been a far tougher sell in the United States…

Multiple factors make it tough for new fields such as nanotechnology — manipulating matter at the smallest of scales to create new materials — to get introduced in classrooms in a broad way, educators say…

Part of the goal, Chang said, is that young people will become interested enough to want to enter the field, which he said needs tens of thousands nano-literate workers. Helping kids understand how science directly applies to the quality of their lives is crucial to attracting more workers, he and other scientists said.

It is unclear whether the current array of educational efforts will be enough to accomplish their goals. [Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association] said he doubts it. Supplemental materials and many professional development programs are helpful for some teachers but often don’t reach far enough, he said.

“The alpha science teacher does look forward to these new things and finds a way to get the subject into his or her classroom,” Wheeler said. “But they really can’t put a lot of time into that because of the standards and the testing.”

In my view, the U.S. public school system is so fundamentally broken that little tweaks and add-ons won’t make much difference. Radical change is needed, and the American public is in denial about it. Until it’s fixed, we’d better make sure our importation of non-U.S. talent is working robustly, if we want the U.S. to keep its current position in nanotechnology. If you’re in doubt on this point, just check out the graduate student lists for the top U.S. academic nanotech labs.

As always, your views are welcome! —Christine

5 Responses to “Nanotechnology taught in Mexico schools, but not U.S.”

  1. Desh Says:

    It was worth acknowledging First Lego League (FLL) Robotics for its efforts to incorporate core values – Engineering Science, Math and Technology.

    Asa a volunteer parent, I enjoyed coaching NXTRock, a Rookie team from Rocky Run Middle School in Chantilly, VA. My team enjoyed NANO Quest a Research Project and designed a Nanotechnology Car and presented a educational Jeopardy Game Show ” Miniscule Peril – The Show where all the questions are about everything you should know about nanotechnology, but you don’t. We hope this game show becomes a teaching tool to the teachers and academics to incorporate new initiatives.

    NXTRock learned a lot from the Project Challenge and mentored with Chantilly Robotics Academy and University of Maryland, Material Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). Our team was able to design this card with able guidance from Prof. Michael Fuhrer and Mr. Bradley Gordon, Graduate Student of University of Maryland for educating them on Nanotechnology and Fuel Cell. The MRSEC center is funded by NSF and holds regular educational outreach programs at College Park, Maryland.

    All this efforts landed them First place’s in the “Research Project” during the regional Tournament held on Nov 19 and “teamwork” judging during State Championship held on Sunday Dec. 3, at Blacksburg High School.

    As far as our experience introducing this subject in the school has met several challenges. We received curious interest from the Science Teachers, but they are not ready or trained to introduce this subject. The yearly Science Olympiad competition has nowhere mention about this subject.

  2. adidaprean Says:

    How is it that the worlds richest country can lag behind in education? You couldn’t pass this through the public school system because it has a nanosized budget. The system has been compromised and needs to be rebooted!

  3. Eric Tulloch Says:

    I saw a recent episode of Emeril on TV; the episode was about a contest where students from schools across the nation entered a sweepstakes to have Emeril come and “spice things up” at the school. The most intriguing thing about the show, though, was the school that won–I only wish I could remember the name of the school. It’s an academy in Harlem focused primarily on music and the arts, but also works on developing leaders. The surprising thing is that the school runs year-round, and students are at the school from 8:30am to 6:30pm. The school’s various choirs tour the country, and the school runs entirely on charitable donations and profits from concerts, if I recall correctly.

    If only a similar academy could be established with a focus on the sciences. Maybe a project for the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

  4. rs Says:

    On the other hand, if skilled immigration was banned, the resulting economic decline would provide the kick up the ass to get the education system fixed ;)

  5. Antonio Juanico Lorán Says:

    Dear Christine,
    Mexico offers a degree in Engineering Nanotechnology at seven universities, 6 of which are public, and the rate of growth of such an offer is growing at a rate of one per year. To learn more about nanoeducation in Mexico please consult the website: http://www.nanotec-pvm.es.tl

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