“Finding Nano”: My journey to the mezzanine level of the Newark Museum

July 9, 2013 at 10:16 am Leave a comment

Nano: The Science of the Super Small

It is fitting that the Newark Museum has an exhibit showcasing the magic of nano technology and its real world applications. Often overshadowed by its bigger, more effulgent Manhattan neighbors, the Newark Museum is an under-appreciated gem. Similarly, nano technology often goes unrecognized for its important contributions to daily life in the face of newer and “cooler” technological advances in areas like aerospace engineering or computer science. In recognizing the underrated importance of nano technology in our everyday lives, we indirectly give the Newark Museum the respect and esteem it deserves. By heavily engaging the visitor with a single broad topic, the visitor leaves the Museum with an experience that is memorable because of the creative presentation of the content and the skillful flow of the layout.

On one of the display posters, “atom by atom” was a phrase used to describe the way nano technology works. That is as much the way nano technology works as it is the way the seven “play and learn stations,”  as I call them, are set up. Each successive station builds on the previous to add another layer of awesome application in a new example of nano technology. My favorite station was the ferrofluid-magnet station. I used strong magnets to lift up small floating iron particles, called ferrofluid, which repeatedly congealed and then broke apart. In anticipation of a larger audience—comprised of kids and adults (remember, parents can have fun, too!)—there are three iron magnet stations to accommodate more players. Other stations engage the visitor with different knobs to spin, lights to turn on, and blocks to balance.

Nano: The Science of the Super Small Exhibit at the Newark Museum

Nano: The Science of the Super Small Exhibit at the Newark Museum

The cherry on top is that you end up learning a lot without even realizing it! The literature on the plaques and posters are full of information but do not overwhelm. The nitty-gritty science terminology is put into simpler terms and synthesized into concise blasts of information. By explaining the relationship between nature and technology, the exhibit made me curious about more natural phenomena that science imitates. Just 15 minutes spent playing at the Nano exhibit made me want to learn more. Instilling curiosity in the visitor and whetting the visitor’s appetite to learn more is one of the main goals of the museum. Founding director John Cotton Dana says pithily: “A good museum attracts, entertains, arouses curiosity, leads to questioning and thus promotes learning” (newarkmuseum.org/about). The nano exhibit is a perfect example; Mr. Dana would be very proud.

-Amanda Schwartz, Summer 2013 Public Relations Intern

Ferrofluid magnet "play and learn" station: use magnets to maneuver the iron particles

Ferrofluid magnet “play and learn” station: use magnets to maneuver the iron particles

Building compounds at a "play and learn" station

Building compounds at a “play and learn” station

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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