MITEI Solar: Igniting the Revolution at MIT
Thursday, 15 November 2012
Students Building Atom by Atom
This summer, a group of California's brightest high school kids will be using powerful, new molecular modeling software to learn about actual atom-by-atom construction of new devices.
Students who report for the Nanotechnology and Robotics class at the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) on July 9 at UC Santa Cruz will begin testing NanoEngineer-1, the first computer aided design (CAD) program for the nanotech age. Built byNanorex Inc. and scheduled for release this fall, NanoEngineer-1's 3-D, interactive environment and molecular physics engine will enable the students to invent and test new kinds of molecular machines and devices, designed atom by atom exactly to their specifications.
"This is NanoEngineer-1's first job in the 'real world,' and I am very pleased it will introduce students to the fundamentals of molecular modeling and molecular dynamics simulations," said Nanorex CEO Mark Sims. "Nanorex was founded on the idea that in addition to teaching young people the fundamentals of chemical, biological and mechanical engineering at the nanoscale, this next generation of nanotech innovators will also need to be able to 'see' how nature's fundamental building blocks can come together in new ways."
"Students have never before been this close to actually building things atom by atom," said COSMOS instructor Miguel F. Aznar. "Using NanoEngineer-1, this will be the first time we've been able to give high school students hands-on practice with nanotechnology structures. It makes nanotechnology tangible, connecting it to the science they've studied."
Two other virtual teachers will join NanoEngineer-1 in the COSMOS classroom. The NanoKids and "nanocar," both born in the laboratory of Rice University nanotech researcher James M. Tour, will take on new life as students model and animate them.
The NanoKids are characters, based on actual anthropomorphic molecules synthesized in the laboratory, who help students and teachers visualize molecular-scale science in a way that is fun and easy to understand. The world's first single-molecule car comes complete with chassis, axles and four buckyball wheels.
In a kind of reverse CAD process, students will use NanoEngineer-1 to model the nanocar and learn how to animate it moving across a gold surface, illustrating the same phenomena demonstrated in Tour's lab earlier this year. NanoEngineer-1 will also help students model and simulate nanomechanical bearings, gears, molecular machine assemblies and other molecular structures that can be found in the Nanorex Gallery.