TEAMM Network Member Profile: Nano-Link at Dakota County Technical College

Some facts are too big to comprehend: A trillion dollars of US debt. While some are tiny and just as difficult: A sheet of paper is 100,000 nanometers thick. Human hair is 80,000 nanometers wide. And a strand of human DNA is a mere 2.5 nanometers in diameter. Nano-Link, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, focuses on these tiniest of atoms and molecules, but it has a big vision.

Forecasts of nanotechnology workforce needs cite 500,000 nanotechnology technicians needed by 2020. As an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Regional Center, Nano-Link, is tasked with growing both an industry and an education network to help meet these workforce needs, according to the website.

Watch Deb Newberry, former Principal Investigator for the Nano-Link project, explain the vision for nanotechnology for today’s students.

Nanotechnology covers subjects from physics and chemistry to emerging technologies such as photonics and biotechnology. It looks at market segments that go beyond the traditional electronics and materials industries, to encompass segments as diversified as lubricants, paper manufacturing, cellulose, energy, consumer products and the food industry.

Nano-Link began in 2008 at Dakota County Technical College creating a NanoScience 2-year Degree. With 10 years under their belt, the program continues to provide nanoscience course content to colleges: The Nano-Infusion Program (NIP) provides hands-on training, specialized modules that they offer at your location, at no cost to you. These products and services are for use in the (7 – 14) classroom or boardroom.

According to the website, the Nano-Link goals include:

  • Create a nationwide alliance of institutions that are the pipeline for the nanotechnology workforce.
  • Develop alliance faculty capacity to interface with industry, correlate industry-needed skills with program or course competencies and outcomes, and develop continuing relationships responsive to the changing technology environment.
  • Prepare students for the nanoscience and emerging technologies workforce.
  • Create a consortium of secondary educators that are masters in nanoscience education to engage students, including URMs.
  • Industry organizations and representatives are an integral part of the Nano-Link National Center.

Nano-Link has successfully advanced nanotechnology across nine colleges and two high schools. As they train the trainers, the program continues to grow and expand, proving that even the tiniest of molecules can make a difference.

Additional Resources: If you are looking for Core Competencies (performance indicators), the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education offers a range of them. It specifically has a downloadable PDF for Nanotechnology Core Competencies.

According to the MatEdU website on Core competencies: “[they] provide a set of performance indicators that technicians, scientists, engineers, educators and technologists need to know in today’s advanced manufacturing environment to be able to accomplish in their work.”

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