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published by the University of Wisconsin MRSEC
supported by the National Science Foundation
This unique activity for middle school allows students to mimic the action of a scanning probe microscope as they figure out what's in the "mystery box", using only chopsticks as probes for mapping the mysterious object. They record data by using centimeter marks on the chopsticks and work cooperatively to analyze the data. The lesson was developed to help students understand how scanning probe microscopy (SPM) can "see" things on an atomic scale by using a sharp probe tip to map surfaces of the nanoscale object.

Editor's Note: SPM technology was invented in the 1980's by IBM scientists. It is a highly sensitive scanner that requires almost total isolation from outside mechanical vibrations. It is essential to nanotechnologists for imaging specimens at the atomic/molecular level.

See Related Materials for a link to a comprehensive tutorial on SPM technology, appropriate for teachers.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
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- Active Learning
= Modeling
General Physics
- Properties of Matter
Modern Physics
- Nanoscience
- Middle School
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Model
= Student Guide
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© 2003 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
Keywords:
SPM microscope, atomic imaging, microscopy, modeling SPM microscope, molecular imaging, nanostructure, nanotech, nanotechnology, scanning probe
Record Creator:
April 15, 2004 by Kara Chiodo
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 17, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 21, 2013 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
April 24, 2009

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 6-8: 4D/M1cd. Atoms may link together in well-defined molecules, or may be packed together in crystal patterns. Different arrangements of atoms into groups compose all substances and determine the characteristic properties of substances.

8. The Designed World

8B. Materials and Manufacturing
  • 9-12: 8B/H4. Increased knowledge of the properties of particular molecular structures helps in the design and synthesis of new materials for special purposes.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 3-5: 11B/E4. Models are very useful for communicating ideas about objects, events, and processes. When using a model to communicate about something, it is important to keep in mind how it is different from the thing being modeled.
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
11D. Scale
  • 6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.

12. Habits of Mind

12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • 6-8: 12C/M2. Use computer databases to store and retrieve information.
  • 6-8: 12C/M3. Make accurate measurements of length, volume, weight, elapsed time, rates, and temperature by using appropriate devices.
12D. Communication Skills
  • 6-8: 12D/M6. Present a brief scientific explanation orally or in writing that includes a claim and the evidence and reasoning that supports the claim.
  • 6-8: 12D/M8. Explain a scientific idea to someone else, checking understanding and responding to questions.

This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.


Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model
Unit Title: Teaching Nanoscale Science

This unique activity for middle school allows students to mimic the action of a scanning probe microscope as they figure out what's in the "mystery box", using only chopsticks as probes for mapping the mysterious object. They record data by using centimeter marks on the chopsticks and work cooperatively to analyze the data.

Link to Unit:

Topic: Particles and Interactions and the Standard Model
Unit Title: Microscopy: Observing at the Nanoscale

This unique activity allows students to mimic the action of a scanning probe microscope as they figure out what's in the "mystery box", using only chopsticks as probes for mapping the mysterious object. They record data by using centimeter marks on the chopsticks and work cooperatively to analyze the data.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(University of Wisconsin MRSEC, Madison, 2003), WWW Document, (http://chemistry.beloit.edu/edetc/modules/MiddleSchool/SPM/index.html).
AJP/PRST-PER
Exploring the Nanoworld: How Can We "See" What We Cannot See? (University of Wisconsin MRSEC, Madison, 2003), <http://chemistry.beloit.edu/edetc/modules/MiddleSchool/SPM/index.html>.
APA Format
Exploring the Nanoworld: How Can We "See" What We Cannot See?. (2009, April 24). Retrieved September 16, 2014, from University of Wisconsin MRSEC: http://chemistry.beloit.edu/edetc/modules/MiddleSchool/SPM/index.html
Chicago Format
National Science Foundation. Exploring the Nanoworld: How Can We "See" What We Cannot See?. Madison: University of Wisconsin MRSEC, April 24, 2009. http://chemistry.beloit.edu/edetc/modules/MiddleSchool/SPM/index.html (accessed 16 September 2014).
MLA Format
Exploring the Nanoworld: How Can We "See" What We Cannot See?. Madison: University of Wisconsin MRSEC, 2003. 24 Apr. 2009. National Science Foundation. 16 Sep. 2014 <http://chemistry.beloit.edu/edetc/modules/MiddleSchool/SPM/index.html>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Exploring the Nanoworld: How Can We "See" What We Cannot See?}, Publisher = {University of Wisconsin MRSEC}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {16 September 2014}, Month = {April 24, 2009}, Year = {2003} }
Refer Export Format

%T Exploring the Nanoworld: How Can We "See" What We Cannot See?
%D April 24, 2009
%I University of Wisconsin MRSEC
%C Madison
%U http://chemistry.beloit.edu/edetc/modules/MiddleSchool/SPM/index.html
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D April 24, 2009
%T Exploring the Nanoworld: How Can We "See" What We Cannot See?
%I University of Wisconsin MRSEC
%V 2014
%N 16 September 2014
%8 April 24, 2009
%9 text/html
%U http://chemistry.beloit.edu/edetc/modules/MiddleSchool/SPM/index.html


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Exploring the Nanoworld: How Can We "See" What We Cannot See?:

Is Supplemented By Optical Microscopy Primer

This tutorial provides extensive background information on the group of instruments referred to as scanning probe microscopes (SPMs). Included are four interactive simulations that depict how SPM works and the Van der Waals forces at play between the SPM probe tip and the specimen.

relation by Caroline Hall

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