NanoCamp brings dozens of high school students to campus

virginia tech logoThe Virginia Tech College of Science recently hosted its eighth annual NanoCamp, bringing 45 high school students to campus to learn about nanoscience and nanomedicine.

Students in grades nine to 12 carried out experiments with gold nanoparticles, built buckyball models, toured labs at the Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Lab at the Corporate Research Center, held a “100 billion nanometer dash” on the Drillfield, met with current College of Science undergraduate students in the nanoscience and nanomedicine programs, and heard about career potentials in nanoscience, science, and engineering from Virginia Tech faculty and researchers.

Event organizers in the College of Science’s Academy of Integrated Science, which includes the nanoscience and nanomedicine programs, have called the fields one of the fastest-growing industries in science today, intersecting electronics, drug treatments, energy, earth sciences, and polymer materials. Virginia Tech is one of two universities in the United States to host such an undergraduate program.

“The first thing the campers did was learn about nanoscience,” said Victoria Corbin, assistant dean for outreach and student engagement for the College of Science. “They then jumped right in and made models of buckyballs, one of the first nanoparticles discovered. Buckyballs have cool properties that make them useful, for example, in increasing the efficiency of solar cells. The campers also carried out experiments with nanogold particles to see how the size of the particles influences its properties and functions.”

The camp was held from Aug. 7 to 9. Participants came from across Virginia, as well as Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Among the student participants was Sarah Davison of Waterford, Virginia, who said, “I really like hearing about nanoscience from the panel of undergraduate and graduate students, who were talking about all the research they were doing. I thought that was really cool.”

Alex Bates of Bristol, Virginia, said he was most impressed by, “How amazing all the equipment was – some of the most complex, but awesome stuff I’ve ever seen.”

Rising high school senior Walker Wilkins, of Front Royal, Virginia, who is considering a career in the geosciences, said of his interest in attending NanoCamp, “I want to be involved in science in college as a major, so I wanted to see different aspects and branches of it, so I can further my education… [This week] was very fun, very educational. We learned about the different aspects of nanoscience and nanomedicine.”

When the camp started eight years ago, only 11 students attended.

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