How Integration of Information is Like Solving a Jigsaw Puzzle, Nanotechnology, and Great Masterpieces of Art

Posted by $ jbrenner 10 months ago to Education
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How Integration of Information is Like Solving a Jigsaw Puzzle, Nanotechnology, and Great Masterpieces of Art

Note: When I wrote this for my Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) colleagues as a follow-up to this week's meeting, it included many links that only registered faculty are allowed to see.

During the development of every living thing and of every field of endeavor, there are stages of development. The stages of human development are well studied. Over the past thirty years, I and others have collected enough knowledge and experience to see the connections evolve in the field of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology began with individual experiments in seemingly unrelated fields. For me, the start of the connection process began when I used a microwave plasma to make what turned about to be the smallest metallic nanoparticles for their elements at the time. However, the curiosity was that the toluene solvent had evolved into a carbon that was not familiar to me. I had quite accidentally made carbon nanotubes, which I realized later had been first discovered three years earlier in 1991 by Sumio Iijima. Eventually I started making connections in how materials self-assemble.

Critical to my being able to visualize how this self-assembly process occurs was the development of a magnetic sphere toy set called "Buckyballs", which are not C60 buckyballs in the materials science sense. Now I buy "Buckyballs" kits for my students to build during the self-assembly unit in my nanotechnology lecture. Along with my Florida Tech colleagues, we wrote proposals in 2004 and 2009 centered on the premise that since the field’s leaders learned what they knew in the lab, the proper way to teach the field was to emphasize lessons learned via nanotech syntheses and characterization experiences during the freshman spring and junior/senior fall classes before integrating that knowledge in a nanotechnology lecture during their junior/senior spring. This is contrary to the simultaneous lecture/lab or lecture first, lab second traditional strategies. At least for nanotechnology, it has worked well, and my bosses have encouraged me to write the best nanotechnology textbook out there. I have started to write such a textbook. This semester, instead of having my students do traditional literature reviews, they are helping me write up textbook sections based on my previous PowerPoint summaries of the news items that I have collected over the past 20 years; the news items act as the nucleation points for each course unit. The start of such a nanotechnology textbook is built into Florida Tech's Nanotechnology Minor Program.

In addition, I am considering a second textbook that I tentatively entitling, "Curiosity, Connections, and Creating Value: Where to Incorporate KEEN Values into Your Curriculum". Phase One for me will focus on making activities, as that is my current focus. I have already compiled a literature review of pre-2019 maker education. More recently I compiled EM Resources for Makers to include all KEEN making cards through the end of November 2020. EM Resources for Makers is itself a card deck of card decks, with interested readers encouraged to dig deeper into its subcategories. As of Feb 2020, these card decks are mere compilations of all the existing cards and can be thought of either as scaffolding to build upon or as a first coat of paint. As part of my current KEEN responsibilities, I will be working with anyone interested in helping to polish EM Resources for Makers and the links therein during 2021.

I have also compiled The One Card Deck to Rule Them All that links to many more specific card decks and all topics that are of interest to anyone in KEEN. Consider these card decks to be scaffolding on which to build upon, but like human tissue, such scaffolding is resorbed as it is integrated into a larger whole. Very soon to be added to each card deck will be a link at the top of the description where you can add yourself to become a curator or part of an editorial board for each card deck that is in your self-interest. If such a link doesn't exist yet, e-mail me at, and I'll immediately add it. To further my nanotechnology analogy, you will self-assemble yourselves. Not only will this be an ideal networking opportunity for times other than the KNC meetings, it will allow us to further integrate the information within our own areas of interest. Submitting this discussion was my after action follow-up from the "You Say You Want a Revolution: How to Spark an "IDEA" Movement", led by @Marika Seigel, @Mary Raber, and @Brett Hamlin, all of Michigan Technological University.

Consider this to be a great masterpiece like Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, but in its developmental stages. Great works of art and engineering have increasing levels of detail, as suggested by @Chad Stillinger and @Chris Sharp of George Fox University at ArtDuino Make-A-Thon, and by @Chris Sharp, @Heather Dillon of University of Washington-Tacoma, and @Daniel Castaneda at Leonardo da Vinci 2.0: Re-Discovering Artistic Expressions of Engineering to Foster an Entrepreneurial Mindset (2021 KNC Session) during the 2021 KNC. As suggested by @A. L. Ranen McLanahan of Wisconsin-Platteville in Supercharging Student Engagement with The Science of Human Attention (2021 KNC Session), we have just enough detail to see the big picture, but there are a lot of “red squares” of missing information (I hope to add a link to such a slide from Ranen's talk.). I look at this like most nanotechnology syntheses, where at some point, you see the big picture of a jigsaw puzzle and then start working backwards toward the individual building blocks that you can buy from the Sigma-Aldrich chemical catalog. This project will fill in these “red squares” of missing information so that we can complete this jigsaw puzzle.

Please forward this as much as possible. In an allusion to my own talk entitled "KEEN's Role in Returning to Work in a COVID-19 World" in the KEEN Insights: Pandemic Adaptations (2021 KNC Session) session, unlike my new company's latest disinfection invention, I would like this discussion to go ... viral.

Best regards,
Jim Brenner

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