Nano 101 Adaptation for Seniors

Vrylena Olney

Greta Zenner of the University of Wisconsin- Madison MRSEC recently adapted her Nano 101 presentation for a workshop with a group of about 50 seniors. The workshop attendees were members of PLATO (Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization), a University of Wisconsin-sponsored program of senior citizens who regularly meet for discussions and educational seminars/workshops.

Greta led a modified version the presentation, officially titled "Nanotechnology and its Intersections with Biology," removing some of the less-relevant slides and material where appropriate (particularly the references to doing nano in museums). Half-way through the program, after the slides describing current applications of nanotechnology, the group paused to do informal versions of two hands-on activities, Magic Sand and Nano Fabrics. Because the audience was particularly interested in biology, Greta highlighted nature as the first nanotechnologist and as the inspiration for these applications – especially the nano fabric. Greta then finished the presentation, including the scanning probe microscope magnet activity, and answered questions.

Greta reported that she was very happy with the program, and the audience was so engaged that it lasted much longer than her normal Nano 101 presentations—the group had lots of thoughtful questions.

Specific things that worked well:

  • Having a break to do the hands-on activities. Attendees had a chance to get up and move around, talk with the presenters, and see some nature-inspired real-life applications of nanotechnology.
  • Greta generally does the Cutting it Down activity when she’s looking to extend Nano 101, but had run into problems with the limited dexterity of seniors with that activity in the past. Greta found that Magic Sand and Nano Fabrics worked well for seniors, but they also work well because they address the topic of applications, rather than just more fundamentals and size/scale.

And one change for the future: the audience wasn’t familiar with Mini Me, so that reference fell flat.

The Da Vinci Science Center also ran a nano program for seniors, you can read more about it here.