By SABRINA HAYES/Montana State News

Walking into the fifth annual NanoDays at MSU was like walking into a playground of science and technology. Jamie Cornish, science outreach specialist at MSU, said, “The purpose of this event is to help the children understand nanoscience in a fun and easy-to-understand format. It’s important for children to be exposed to science in informal learning contexts and to be able to interact with local science mentors.”

Like a science fair, students and teachers worked together to teach and learn about different areas and activities and applications for nanotechnologies.

According to the Nanoscience Informal Science Education Network, the founders and national organizers of NanoDays, the event strives to reach diverse audiences, especially those who would not usually get easy access to the information.

“At MSU, researchers are using nanoscience to develop targeted vaccines, magnetic materials for electronics, and catalysts for producing hydrogen,” said Cornish.

With interactive activities for children and their parents, children can learn the importance of the science, but also the risks. “Since nanotechnologies are still developing, we can influence what they are and how they’re used. We all have a role in determining how these new technologies will play out in our future,” said Cornish.

Nanoscience is the study of extremely small particles. According to Cornish, “Nanotechnology has many important potential applications from disease fighting drugs, to computer components, to safety equipment and even alternative fuels.” NanoDays serves to promote and teach the importance of nanotechnology to children.

With each year, NanoDays advances as the science advances—allowing for new activities. One of the new interactive displays this year allows kids to plate their own nickels. Cornish explained, “It is a hands on activity in which visitors coat a nickel coin with copper using the electroplating process. They learn that electroplating can deposit nanometer-thin layers of materials and will have a souvenir of a nickel that looks like a penny.”

One parent, as she watched her child electroplate her nickel, explained her excitement that her daughter was interested in science. She said, “We came here last year and she was the one who asked about it again. She loves this stuff.”

The event is sponsored by MSU’s Extended University and Montana NSF EPSCoR.