Nanoscale structure is a theme that has been with ICE since its early days. This was evident in the materials that we developed and made available to teachers in kit form: the Solid-State Model KitOptical Transform (X-Ray Diffraction) KitDNA Optical Transform (X-Ray Diffraction) Kit.

A fruitful collaboration with the MRSEC program (Materials Research Science and Engineering Center on Nanostructured Materials and Interfaces) at UW–Madison helped to make these hands-on materials a reality and enabled them to be in classrooms around the world. The collaboration continues today as evidenced by these recently added materials: Polyhedral Model KitExploring the Nanoworld KitNanoworld Presenter’s Guide with “Try This” Packet.

In addition, ICE has served as the Education and Outreach arm for NSEC, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center on Templated Synthesis at the Nanoscale since its inception in 2004. NSEC has NSF funding through the National Nanotechnology Initiative with the goal of building infrastructure for nanotechnology research and education across the country. For ICE this has meant even bigger collaborative projects on a smaller scale: the nanoworld. To carry out the mission of the NSEC Education and Outreach program, ICE is developing new scalable teaching and learning programs, methodologies, and communities, all aimed at cultivating a diverse next generation of nanoscientists and engineers. This is exciting stuff: exciting for us and exciting for the K–12 community.

This section will point you to what we are doing in nanoscience and materials science—in Kits and PublicationsOutreachEducation, and Research. The ICE nanoscience theme includes:



Many ICE publications and kits are based on nanoscience or materials science, ranging from introductory demos through those that take a close-up look at molecular structure. All are tried and tested. You will find them listed below with very succinct descriptions and arranged by increasing depth of coverage; the links will take you to a fuller description.

Get Started!

  • Nanoworld Presenter’s Guide with Try This! Packet. [demo, general audience] Get background information to introduce the nanoworld to a general audience as well as instructions and materials for demonstrating four simple nanotechnology-related experiments.
  • Nanoworld Hands-On Student Sets. [hands-on activities, general audience] The same four nanotechnology-related experiments above, but with enough packets and activity booklets to use as a group activity instead of a demonstration.

Go a Bit Further…

  • Exploring the Nanoworld Kit. [general audience; group work or individual project] This activity kit enables you to explore how we can “see” atoms, assemble them into novel structures, and customize their properties to develop new technologies. (Available in English or Spanish language versions.)

Expand on the Nano Theme

  • Memory Metal. [demo or individual project, for all levels] Use the pre-shaped sample of memory metal wire (Nitinol™), a cup of hot or cold water, and the simple instructions in the accompanying booklet to have a vivid example of shape-memory retention in metal alloys; also explains how this works on the nanoscale.
  • Nanocrystalline Solar Cell Kit. [high school through college students; hands-on activity for groups, individual projects, or lab exercise] Students build their own nanocrystalline solar cell and recreate the process of photosynthesis: they generate electricity from light using natural dyes from berries, experimenting with an important technology for capturing the sun’s energy.

Dig More Deeply: Look at Structure

  • Polyhedral Model Kit. [high school through college students; demo, group work, or lab exercise] This kit simplifies the visualization of many complex chemical structures that involve polyhedral shapes. It nicely complements the ICE Solid-State Model Kit.
  • Solid-State Model Kit. [AP and college students; demo, group work, or lab exercise] Use this classic kit to build and study a structural model of metals, ionic compounds, even superconductors and see how atomic packings determine physical properties—density, cleavage planes, conductivity directions.
  • Optical Transform (X-Ray Diffraction) Kit. [AP through college students; one kit is a demo, purchase additional slides for hands-on] Study structure by modelling X-ray diffraction. Here is everything you need (except a laser pointer): directions, diffraction patterns on four 35-mm slides, and overhead transparency masters.
  • DNA Optical Transform (X-Ray Diffraction) Kit. [AP through college students; one kit is a demo, purchase additional slides for hands-on] With this kit and a visible laser (not supplied) you can simulate Rosalind Franklin’s famous X-ray diffraction experiments that led to the discovery of the DNA double helix.