July 21, 2017

First nanotech lab gives WHS advantage in science

by Megan Jones, Editor-in-Chief

Nanotechnology, a science in its infancy, will allow WHS students to be on the cutting edge and have an advantage among others as they work with equipment and technology within WHS’s nanotechnology laboratory, the  first public high school research and development nanolab in the country.

As part of an “Introduction to Nanotechnology,” senior science elective class, students will have the ability to participate in authentic research and use equipment similar to manufacturers in the area.

“WHS is a leader in STEM education in the country, and I want our students to be the researchers, discoverers and the world’s change makers,” Dr. Lazaro Lopez, principal, said. “This lab provides another venue to set our students apart and to inspire other schools to reach beyond what they thought was possible.”

Many colleges do not allow their students to work with nanotechnology equipment until they have reached a graduate level due to high equipment expenses.

“This will be the first nanotechnology high school lab in the country. I hope it will bring opportunities for students to utilize equipment and make them more marketable when looking for a manufacturing job or entering a field of science in college,” Nancy Heintz, science division head, said.

Students enrolled in the nanotechnology class will have the opportunity to produce research with Lisa del Muro, nanotechnology teacher. She will have a free period specifically for students to meet with her on various competitions.

“Dr. Lopez steered WHS into the nanotechnology pathway and is a great leader for doing so. It provides an opportunity for students to be the first to work within the field,” Mrs. del Muro said.

Some manufacturers do not have all the nanotechnology equipment, so WHS will offer them the ability to come and use its equipment (for a fee). According to Ms. del Muro, with manufacturers already in the building, students can build a relationship and form networks before they even graduate.

WHS currently looks into a dual credit with a community college to allow students more opportunities.

The laboratory will be located on the second floor of WHS in room 207.  The program is currently bidding on equipment for the nanotechnology lab such as an atomic force microscope. 30 seniors are currently enrolled in the class, which will be split into two sections to ensure students receive one-on-one time with the equipment.

WHS is currently reaching out to community colleges, such as Oakton Community College and universities, such as the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, to build connections between programs. For instance, WHS could send students enrolled in the nanotechnology program to attend nanotechnology summer camps at U of I to build relationships. Both want to partner with WHS.

“This lab will serve as an inspiration for our students, a skills development center for our community’s future scientist, transferable job skills upon graduation and a resource to our countless business partners and research institutions,” Dr. Lopez said.

Construction on the lab will begin this summer. The lab will feature approximately eight stations of equipment.

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