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Partner Highlight: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Due!

Christina Akers, Science Museum of Minnesota and Midwest Regional Hub Leader

Are you thinking about applying for a 2015 NISE Network mini-grant? Then keep two important things in mind: 1) applications are due October 1, 2014 and 2) there are four years worth of examples for you to draw from as you brainstorm project ideas! That’s 179 successful projects all completed by fellow NISE Net partner museums and research centers. Check out the comprehensive list of mini-grant projects at

For more inspiration, here are some mini-grant projects from the extraordinary and exotic Midwest Region including Ann-Arbor Hands-On Museum, Saint Louis Science Center, and Bootheel Youth Museum.

Ann-Arbor Hands-On Museum

At Ann-Arbor Hands-On Museum (AAHOM), the goal is to inspire people to discover the wonder of science, math, and technology. Nano activities and the Nano mini-exhibition fit in well there, and with support from a 2013 mini-grant, the museum was inspired to develop their own new nano workshop.

AAHOM initially started with two goals: to reach an older audience, and to incorporate more technology into their traveling programs. By using free NISE Net resources and knowledge gained through professional development activities, AAHOM was able to adapt materials around their own curriculum and develop a 90-minute workshop that introduced students grades 4-8 to nanoscience and its applications. In the workshop students discussed scale, used measurement tools such as rulers, hand lenses and digital microscopes, and used "Feely Boxes" to understand how an Atomic Force Microscope "feels" at the nanoscale.

AAHOM NanoScience Workshop activities included:

  • So Scaley: Scale and the Right Tools for the Job!
  • Nanoscience in Nature
  • Gecko Gloves
  • Properties of Nanomaterials
  • Inventing the Future

Their NISE Net mini-grant project was complete when workshop development and implementation concluded, but their staff was so inspired that they decided to continue work and created a few more new nanoscience programs, which included the following:

Nano properties: Through paper engineering, AAHOM uses paper folding techniques and models to demonstrate how particles and molecules come together in different but interesting ways, depending on different energy states.

Inventing the future: These are design challenges that use other nano activities (water resistance, gecko feet, oobleck, etc.) as inspiration for technologies of the future, which participants design for different situations and worlds.      

Materials created are now available to the AAHOM outreach team to take to "Family Science Nights" as well as "Super Science Days." Since the actives were developed with multiple grade levels and families in mind, they lend themselves well to AAHOM outreach, which serves students in schools and communities all around the state of Michigan. Also, despite aiming programming towards older students, they’ve since found younger audiences also find the activities fun and engaging!

For more information about AAHOM mini-grant project work or programming, please contact Andrea Reynolds at

Saint Louis Science Center

Last summer, the Saint Louis Science Center used mini-grant funds to develop a "Small Science Summer Camp." This was a lab-based camp for high school students where students had the chance to synthesize real nanostructures! Since mini-grant funds paid for program development and supplies, they were able to offer this camp at a lower price then some of their other camp offerings. This allowed them to target underserved audiences who would not normally be able to afford a summer camp at their museum.

In its first year, the camp included nine male high school freshmen, with two students on the Autism Spectrum and one from China. Students started their summer camp with a trip to the Nano mini-exhibition and worked with activities from the NanoDays kits. From there it was straight to the lab where students experimented with gold and silver nanoparticles, ferrofluids, liquid crystals and 3D printed objects using both a 3D printer and stereolithography.

This project expanded upon a current partnership the museum has with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who assisted with the stereolithography 3D printing portion of the camp. Students also had the opportunity to take home small samples of what they created in the lab and at the end of the week, the group sat down for a discussion around systems and societal implications of nanotechnology. After the camp, the museum conducted a post-camp evaluation with students to help improve this camp for the future.


The Saint Louis Science Center had been looking for more in-depth offerings for high school students in their summer camp programming and with the aid of the NISE Net mini-grant, they now have a successful, highly interactive experience for high school students to include in their annual camp offerings.

For more information on Saint Louis Science Center’s summer camp or programming, please contact Andrew McGarrahan at

Bootheel Youth Museum

During 2014, Bootheel Youth Museum applied mini-grant funds to help remodel exhibit space that now houses the NISE Net Nano mini-exhibition. What exactly did mini-grant funds help them to achieve? Well, the pictures begin to tell the story…



                                And the final product!  


Bootheel had a little more support than just a NISE Net mini-grant to achieve this major exhibit space overhaul! However, the mini-grant award assisted in big ways for this larger endeavor, which included the addition of two more exhibits "What is Macro" and "What is Micro" helping guests transition to the nanoscale. Other exciting additions to the space include Punky’s Lab, a hands-on activity space adjacent to the Nano mini-exhibition where staff and guests interact with NanoDays kit activities, and the Nano Bite, the renamed and relocated museum snack area.

So what do others think about the new Nano mini-exhibition space at Boothel Youth Museum?

"It sure took a long time, but man it was worth it." – Bootheel Youth Museum Board Member reaction to the new Nano space

"This is a great addition, love that this is something for all ages, including me." – Malden Elementary Teacher reaction to the new Nano space

For more information on Boothel Youth Museum, please contact Patsy Reublin at

Ready? Set? APPLY!

Not quite ready? Check out the recording of last’s years NISE Net Online Brown Bag Conversation that reviews the application process and offers more partner examples at