The National Center for Earth and Environmental Science (NanoEarth) hosted 46 11th and 12th graders from five different states for the Virginia Tech (VT) College of Science’s Explore Physical Sciences Camp this July. During the immersive four-day camp, students stay on campus, dine on campus, explore laboratories, and learn about science topics from different VT departments.

During their time with NanoEarth, students experienced hands-on nanotechnology demonstrations in five rotations. They learned how four different instruments worked in the Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Laboratory (NCFL), such as the Focused Ion Beam (FIB). While learning about the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), participants studied samples of mold, butterfly wings, a lady bug, and Mars soil simulant. They examined a penny, dime, and paper clip with the X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS), while trying to discover the surface elements in their top 5-10 nanometers. Students investigated the properties of aluminum alloys on the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM).

Wrapping up their visit, students participated in hands-on NanoDays activities. They dropped water on nano fabric and regular fabric, examining the hydrophobic properties of the nano coated fibers. They explored the magnetic properties of ferrofluid, as they held a magnet up to a United States dollar bill and tubes of black sand and ferrofluid. They analyzed heat transfer by cutting through an ice cube on a foam versus graphene block. Lastly, they dropped silicone coated nano sand into water to explore the hydrophobic properties.