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Keck Grant for Utah Nanofab

Pencil tips show the size of part of a computer chip that demonstrates the physical properties of materials at different length scales. Researchers at the University of Utah's nanofabrication facility will provide these chips and teaching modules to undergraduate students nationwide through a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation.

March 22, 2013 – The University of Utah’s nanofabrication facility received $200,000 from the W.M. Keck Foundation to provide engineering education materials about length scales to students at the University of Utah, community colleges and four-year colleges nationwide.

Researchers at Utah Nanofab engineer microscopic materials as well as nanoscale materials made from molecules or atoms. These materials play an increasing role in our daily lives in devices ranging from smart phones to medical diagnostics.

By providing instructors with demonstration computer chips and teaching modules, Utah Nanofab will give students hands-on experience with understanding the physical properties of materials at different length scales. Utah Nanofab is a part of the University of Utah’s College of Engineering and is a “core” or shared facility that fabricates and analyzes nanoscale and microscale materials and for academic and industrial users in Utah and nationwide.

With guidance from Utah Nanofab staff members and colleagues at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico and Texas Tech University, Utah engineering students will design and manufacture computer chips that demonstrate how the performance of a given material can change depending on its size and shape.

Local and regional partner institutions – such as Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley University in Orem and Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. – will receive these chips and modules for use in their own classrooms.

According to a 2013 job outlook by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bosses plan to hire about 13 percent more new graduates than they did last year, particularly in computer and electronics manufacturing. Engineering students with hands-on experience in studying computer devices engineered at small length scales – such as state-of-the-art microscale and nanoscale systems – have a leg up on fellow graduates.

“We are very excited about this award from the Keck Foundation, which will help students bridge their understanding from the macroworld [full scale] to the microworld and provides a path for experiential learning at the nano-, micro- and macroscales,” says Ian Harvey, associate director of the Utah Nanofab. “Twenty-first century engineering will require our students to be prepared with a thorough understanding of scaling effects.”

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company.  The foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science,  engineering and undergraduate education.  The Foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth.

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