Partner Highlight: AmeriCorps VISTA Member Brings NanoDays to Montana State University’s Family and Graduate Housing

Suzi Taylor, Montana State University

An annual Halloween festival for children received an infusion of Nano when an AmeriCorps VISTA member based at Montana State University brought NanoDays activities to the university’s Family & Graduate Housing (FGH).

FGH hosts an annual Pumpkin Festival near Halloween, and Deanna Linn, who serves within MSU’s Extended University, recruited undergraduate and graduate students from MSU’s Chemical and Biological Engineering Department to volunteer at the October 17th event.

The team presented Thin Films, Dress Up As A Nano Scientist, Capillary Action, Tiny Tea Cups, Ferrofluid, Hydrogel and Kinetic Sand to approximately 115 children and their families who attended the event, which also included a costume contest, pie-eating contest and pumpkin catapult along with pumpkin bowling, pumpkin painting, bean bag toss, arts and crafts, sack race, tic-tac-toe, cookie decorating, science experiments with bubbles and dry ice, and face painting. This is the first time the annual event has included a NanoDays outreach component.

Linn said the most popular NanoDays activity was Kinetic Sand, a kit that demonstrates how a polymer at the nanoscale can change properties of the sand at the macroscale. The kinetic sand has a polymer coating that makes the sand feel and look wet when it isn’t.

Families from around the world live in MSU’s Family Housing complex, where children range from newborn to 18 and who hail from all backgrounds: single-parent families, low-income families, military families, etc. Many countries are also represented, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, India, China, Japan, Nepal, Lebanon and Brazil as well as families from around Montana and the U.S.

The event was a success and has opened up future NanoDays and other STEM outreach partnerships between MSU Family and Graduate Housing and MSU Extended University. Linn also has tips for other organizations that want to reach new and potentially underrepresented audiences via a local campus family housing office.

To learn more about this university outreach event, please contact Suzi Taylor, Assistant Director of Outreach and Communications at Montana State University - Extended University.