Newswise — UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Have you ever heard of nanotechnology? While it is the study and application of extremely small things, it is the next big thing.

In 2020, it is predicted that 70 percent of all new advanced technology products will incorporate nanotechnology, and the investment in nanotechnology will be three trillion dollars.

“Nanotechnology has an impact on so many things that are very important to our well-being and our advancement in life — in areas such as electronics, transportation, communication, the environment and health care,” said Osama Awadelkarim, director of the Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization (CNEU) and the Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge Network (NACK) at Penn State. “There are so many industries now applying nanotechnology methods and processing, so to help these industries and to help this advancement, we need to build up a workforce.”

While CNEU has been doing nanotechnology professional development workshops on site at Penn State for several years, the high cost and extended absence from work for attendees of these workshops are major concerns that make these important workshops inaccessible to a large number of educators.

To help fill the need for six million workers trained in nanotechnology and nanofabrication, CNEU has received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program to form a Nanotechnology Professional Development Partnership (NPDP) — consisting of members from community and technical colleges across the United States who are experienced in developing and delivering top-notch programs in nanotechnology — to develop an impactful, effective, affordable and sustainable professional development model program for nanotechnology workforce educators at technical colleges and community colleges.

And after months of detailed planning, the Nanotechnology Professional Development Partnership is ready to implement its pilot workshop program.

Aiming for an educational experience that is more meaningful than online but less costly than on site, the NPDP reached out to Penn State’s Office for Digital Learning in the College of Engineering for guidance on developing a live stream format that is engaging for everyone.

“We’re really excited to partner with NPDP to help create some digital learning aspects they can use in their workshops, such as filming labs and cleanrooms, facilitating break out rooms within the virtual classroom and more to make sure participants not only learn from the instructors, but also from each other,” said Cathy Holsing, director of the Office for Digital Learning in the College of Engineering. “Providing these workshops in a digital format allows anyone from the United States to participate in the same kind of great learning experiences offered in person, free of charge.”

The virtual classroom will be a personalized URL that will enable the use of pen and board as well as the in-situ sharing of stored documents, layouts and notes. The NPDP will develop web-based laboratory and cleanroom experiences in synchronization with the workshop lecture material. Laboratory training will consist of web-based remote access to nano-characterization tools at different sites in the NPDP and live streaming of cleanroom nano-processing demonstrations. In addition to live streaming remote accessibility of equipment, CNEU will utilize simulation capabilities at Penn State to develop sophisticated laboratory modules, experiments and data analysis exercises.

The pilot program consists of two workshops: Introduction to Nanotechnology for Educators and Curriculum Delivery (Nano Curriculum Materials I/II).

“It is important that nanotechnology is taught at all levels of education, because the workforce is needed not only at the Ph.D. level, but also at the master’s, bachelor’s and associate level. Almost all industries will use nanotechnology in some aspect at some point, so nanotechnology can’t grow and flourish without qualified technicians in the field,” said Bob Ehrmann, managing director of CNEU. “Penn State, along with its partners across the country, has developed specific standards for what should be taught in these workshops, and we have a proven success rate in teaching these programs. Not only do we want to provide educators with the knowledge of nanotechnology lectures and laboratories, but we also want to see that this education results in more rapid implementation of the workshop material into the classrooms of participating educators, resulting in improved learning outcomes for students.”

Available to educators across the country, the Introduction to Nanotechnology for Educators workshop is designed for secondary and postsecondary STEM educators, guidance counselors and school administrators to gain an understanding of what nanotechnology is, where it is being used in various industries and scientific fields, tools they can use to bring nanotechnology into their classrooms and more. The Introduction to Nanotechnology for Educators consists of four consecutive Friday sessions from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on February 9, February 16, February 23 and March 2, 2018.

“Nanotechnology is an integral part of STEM education, embracing a great deal of mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry,” said Ehrmann. “Realizing that nano-education starts in high school, this introductory workshop will be an effective tool to attract students’ attention about nanotechnology and to help nanotechnology recruitment at the associate and bachelor degree levels.”

Nano Curriculum Materials I and II are for postsecondary faculty and administrators and provide them with resources and guidance needed to effectively teach undergraduate nanotechnology courses at their institutions. Nano Curriculum Materials I and II consist of four consecutive Friday sessions from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Materials I is held on April 6, April 13, April 20 and April 27, 2018; and Materials II is held on May 11, May 18, May 25 and June 1, 2018.

“Because this is a pilot program, we’re thinking about the recruitment — to try to get a good selective group of educators attending these workshops and then get some useful feedback from those educators to help us improve on these workshops,” said Awadelkarim. “Once we have the best possible workshops in place in terms of outlines and material and how to present it live stream, not only will we continue to offer these workshops after our three-year funding, but our goal is to catalyze a cultural shift on methods and modes of offering professional development for workforce development educators leveraging combinations of available technologies to overcome the challenges of cost, resources, time and location.”

In order to enable effective classroom and chat room interactions between participants and instructors, attendance for each workshop will be limited to 20 attendees. For more information, including how to register for a workshop, visit Specific questions can be directed to Bob Ehrmann at [email protected] or 814-865-7558.