Partner Highlight: Robots, Bees, and Nano, Oh My!: NanoDays at the Delaware Museum of Natural History

Jayatri Das, The Franklin Institute

Many of our favorite applications of nanotechnology—from water-repellent fabric to iridescent materials—are inspired by nature. These connections have made nano programming a great fit for many of the NISE Network’s natural history museum partners, including the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DelMNH). But visitors aren’t always aware of the link between nature and technology, says Kari Lawrence, the Museum’s education manager, so programs like NanoDays offer a chance to highlight this cutting-edge science while also building new relationships in their community.

As part of the 2014 NanoDays events, the Delaware Museum of Natural History reached out to diverse partners to expand their programming, ranging from beekeeping to robotics to University of Delaware scientists. While beekeeping might not have obvious connections to nanotechnology, the Museum worked with someone who specialized in dissecting bees and looking at the various types of pollen under microscopes, illustrating a key nano-related skill for many students. Similarly, local FIRST Robotics teams tied in their activities to those included in the NanoDays kit, helping visitors understand the connections. An added benefit, says Kari, was that “the teams that came were of all ages, so it connected really well with schools and families of all ages. Visitors liked the addition of the partnerships, since it brought in new and exciting things to the Museum.”

The partnerships forged through NanoDays have had lasting benefits for the Museum. They are collaborating with the University of Delaware to build interactive exhibit kiosks through funding from the National Science Foundation, with one on biomimicry nearly complete and another about solar panel technology in development. FIRST Robotics will be back in the spring for the Museum’s Robot Zoo exhibit, and even the beekeeper has been back with a demonstration hive for a “Buzz on Bees” exhibit.

Thanks to Kari and her team’s hard work, their visitors were impressed that they “were able to take something as complicated as nanotechnology, and bring it down to a toddler level.” We look forward to hearing about more innovative ideas to connect nano and nature in the future!

For more information on DelMNH visit http://www.delmnh.org/, or contact Jayatri Das from The Franklin Institute and the NISE Net Mid-Atlantic Regional Hub Leader.