High School Nanotechnology Laboratory for Career Development

Nanoscience Instruments enabled the first of its kind: a public high school science lab with advanced instrumentation for nanotechnology education

Nanotechnology lab at Wheeling High School with scanning electron microscope, optical microscope, atomic force microscope, and scanning tunneling microscopeNanotechnology lab at Wheeling High School with scanning electron microscope, 3D optical microscope, atomic force microscope, and scanning tunneling microscope

Wheeling High School is a public, four-year comprehensive high school in Illinois with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) focus. Nanoscience Instruments installed a Nanoscience Classroom, a modular package of instrumentation configured for nanotechnology education, at Wheeling High School. Nanoscience Instruments provided several scanning electron microscopes, atomic force microscopes, scanning tunneling microscopes and a 3D optical microscope. This powerful collection of instrumentation allows students to see structures from millimeters to nanometers in dimension.

“Nanoscience Instruments is uniquely suited to customize packages for the needs of educators. Providing this solution to a progressive high school such as Wheeling is very exciting for us,” says Mark Flowers, executive director of Nanoscience Instruments, “By leveraging their strong relationship with area colleges and industry, this is a great opportunity for both their students and the local community.”

Lazaro Lopez, Associate Superintendent for the Wheeling HS district adds, “This Nano lab will support the school’s Research and Development Career Pathway, providing marketable research skills, further integrate engineering and manufacturing with the sciences, and serve students and staff throughout the region, well beyond the school, with professional development experiences.”

The cornerstones of the Nanoscience Classroom are the Phenom desktop SEM, the Nanosurf NaioAFM & NaioSTM, and the Zeta 3D optical microscope. These instruments are all unique in their compactness, ease of use, and low maintenance.

The United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured Wheeling High School to see the cutting-edge nanotechnology lab. Secretary Duncan said he wants to figure out how to replicate the program at schools across the country.

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured Wheeling High School Nanotechnology lab

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan toured Wheeling High School Nanotechnology lab

“Going to college has never been more important and it’s never been more expensive,” Duncan said. “We have a lot of hard work to do. The President is very concerned and so am I. We have to do more to make college more accessible and more affordable. Right now far too many middle class families are starting to think college isn’t for them, that it’s for rich folks, and that’s a huge problem.”

Duncan said he hopes to replicate what he saw in Wheeling, sometimes on a smaller scale depending on what schools can afford.

“This is absolutely the cutting edge. You are way, way at the forefront,” he said. “The question is now how do we accelerate the pace of change. How do we go from Wheeling today to 10, 100 or 1,000 programs like this across the country? I don’t have an easy answer for that, but we’re working on it.”

Wheeling’s Phenom SEMs provide magnification to 45,000x. Students can investigate the elemental composition of materials and see them in great detail. The Phenom SEMs bridge the visible world with the nanoscale world.

The Nanosurf AFM and STM are the eyes into the nanoscale world. AFM is required to evaluate smaller and smaller devices and surface structures that are continually being created for new technologies. The STM can reveal actual atomic structure. Visualizing atoms using quantum mechanics provides a truly unique experience for a student.

The Zeta 3D optical profiler is an industrial instrument that provides stunning 3D images in true color. Measurements are made on mechanical devices to look at holes, scratches, steps, roughness, and other important parameters.    

Students are now exposed to a great number of characterization techniques that can be used immediately after high school in jobs at high technology companies, as critical training for technical college preparation, or as a primer to a higher level college career.