Physical models are three-dimensional, tangible representations of real-world or theoretical objects. They have a long history of use in both formal and informal education settings, from chemistry models used in the classroom to dioramas in natural history museums.
Physical models are a particularly rich avenue for exploring the structure and geometry of the nanoscale in informal settings. They can be hands-on, open-ended, and cost-effective way to build atomic structures. But while there are distinct advantages to these often-familiar learning tools, there are many challenges that must be considered when designing activities for the public.
The Visualization Lab developed Nanoscape, a collection of large-scale scupltural models of the nanoscale world created by visitors, staff, and scientists in a community building activity. event. The result was one of the largest model environments of the nanoscale landscape ever constructed. Floor to ceiling models of carbon nanotubes, hanging fabric sculptures based on the symmetry of silicon crystals, and artists’ interpretations of the molecular machinery celebrated known and speculative aspects of emerging nanotechnology.