You never know what to expect when you head into the Lemelson Center’s Spark!Lab. Visitors might be learning about electricity through the experiments of Benjamin Franklin (and maybe receiving a little shock from Resident Eccentric Steve Madewell as I have on many occasions!), inventing their own robots in Invention Corner, watching our volunteers perform an experiment with dry ice, or even, once, building the world’s largest LEGO light bulb.
But I can tell you what to expect this week (through Saturday, April 3)—lots of fun, hands-on activities about nanotechnology as Spark!Lab celebrates NanoDays! What’s nanotechnology you ask? I didn’t know either until Resident Eccentric Steve explained it to me. Nanotechnology is the study of controlling matter on an atomic and molecular scale and is used in a lot of things we use everyday like LCD screens on our cameras, phones, and TVs and has uses in robotics, health care, agriculture, and more.
The Lemelson Center is one of more than 200 science museums, research centers, and universities across the country presenting hands-on activities, experiments, and lectures pertaining to nanotechnology. Come into Spark!Lab this week and learn about nano by building a giant model of a carbon nanotube out of balloons measuring your height in nanometers, inventing your own NanoBot, or creating a liquid crystal display that changes color.
There’s even a nano-activity that involves your sense of smell! The innovative minds down in Spark!Lab have put essential oils inside a bunch of balloons they then blew up. Because the balloons have nano-sized pores, they both stay inflated and let off delicious smells like peppermint (my favorite), licorice, and coffee—which all the adults responded to with “MMMMM!” while all the kids went “YUCK!” Stop by and let me know in the comments which ones you liked!Left: These inventors just patented their NanoBots at Spark!Lab’s patent office. Right: Giant balloon model of a nanotube in progress.
On Saturday, April 3, we’ll have nanotechnology experts from places like The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies giving special presentations. For more information on special guests, including our Innovative Lives program with Michael Furher and a forum on the risks and benefits of nanotechnology, visit the Lemelson Center’s website.
Kate Wiley is the communications assistant for the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. She is 1,730,000,000 nanometers tall.