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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanoNewsNet.ru > NT-MDT: From instrumentation to life. Educational efforts of enlightening activity.

Eugene Birger
Principal Analyst
NanoNewsNet.ru

Abstract:
Not only NT-MDT is an instrumentation company, but it designs products for educators, promotes school nanoprograms in various disciplines, and tries to wear many nanotechnology hats. Their mission is "to enable researchers, engineers and developers to conduct nanoscale research by creating ever more perfect nanotechnology instrumentation. Along the way, we maintain a global perspective, always taking into consideration the needs of a student in the classroom, a researcher on the cutting edge in the laboratory, and practicalities of industrial R&D".

July 21st, 2011

NT-MDT: From instrumentation to life. Educational efforts of enlightening activity.

I wrote about NT-MDT Company many times; my interest primarily had been related to their outstanding scientific equipment, nothing else. As a passionate engineer I never thought to go deeper to learn more about the company, their people, their credo… What I have learned recently is that not only NT-MDT is an instrumentation company, but it designs products for educators, promotes school nanoprograms in various disciplines, and tries to wear many nanotechnology hats. You can read on their website:"Our mission is to enable researchers, engineers and developers to conduct nanoscale research by creating ever more perfect nanotechnology instrumentation. Along the way, we maintain a global perspective, always taking into consideration the needs of a student in the classroom, a researcher on the cutting edge in the laboratory, and practicalities of industrial R&D".

As you know, modern educational process requires from the students of different levels not only theoretical knowledge of the subjects, but solid practical skills. Modern scientist to be has to learn how to work with extremely sophisticated lab equipment. NT-MDT made a breakthrough in the field of Russian nanotechnological education. They created a new product, called "NanoEducator" and they installed more than 200 NanoEducators at the schools of Russia and other countries worldwide. NanoEducator represents a classroom equipped with several sets of training Scanning Probe Microscopes. In the process of training the students learn the practical basis of nanotechnology. All the complexes in the class are networked that allows the teacher to monitor the process of investigation of nanosized objects.

Thus who would better understand the NT-MDT's products if not the people who grew up playing with them? Second year in a row NT-MDT Co. holds an international conference "Nanoeducation: the main approaches and perspectives". The meeting had a unique format - the first international educational conference with training for teachers on nanoeducational equipment. More than 180 participants took part in this event, including representatives from Russia, USA, Europe, and CIS. The main goal of the conference was to overcome the gap between impetuous development of the modern nanoscience and a conservative system of education, especially in schools, where the teachers experienced serious problems working with new equipment.

NT-MDT selected a hard and long, but fun way - to pre-educate young people and prepare them for the further education process. This way of "rising stars" should be very consistent and requires knowledgeable and enthusiastic people introducing this process. The greatest problem here is to attract the youth, to switch their interest from computer games and glamour TV- shows to reading the books and working in the labs. They in NT-MDT use universal human values in order to get young people involved and keep their interest for high tech.

Russians love a famous saying: "Beauty will save the world". NT-MDT not only supports the education, they try to teach young generation to understand beauty and through this love approach modern sophisticated technical world. They show the world of science, the world of matter, the world of instrumentation to broad public. And they show it from unusual perspective. For instance, at the photographic competition "Science Is Beautiful!" that was arranged by Russian Internet portal strf.ru, close related to the Russian Academy of Sciences. This photographic contest aimed to create a new look on the Russian science and technology, find creative approach to the scientific scenarios, and express their inherent properties in unique images. The participants of the contest presented their photos taken in scientific process, research, and development. During this contest NT-MDT, inspired by success of their previous events, offered a special nomination "Hardware Esthetics" for photos with artistic image of equipment.

Thus, the competition united three in one: science, art, and technology. Out of more than 500 participants only fourteen authors were awarded with prizes and valuable gifts. The winners can be seen here. NT-MDT Co. hoped that participation in special nomination mentioned above would help all the contestants to find a new vision of ordinary things, discover and highlight the uniqueness and originality of the equipment and fascination of the research process. Here are my favorite photos:


Fig. 1. "One day in the life of NanoFab" (author Natalia Solovyeva).


Fig. 2. "Internal beauty" (author Maria Khorova).

Following the line of flamboyant public events for last two years in a row NT-MDT offered a photo contest in the nomination "The people of the science. The art of the science". Numerous photos received were of outstanding quality and incredible subjects. And no matter who was the winner, the participation itself - what counts. The photo gallery 2011 is here, and the winners could be found
here.


Fig. 3. "Young Addisons" (author Michael Vtorov).

And now it is time to go from the scientists to the beautiful images obtained by them with AFMs. Hence, the next logical step for NT-MDT was to show to the public the nanoworld itself, the amazing beauty of it; moreover, to get them involved in the show - let them find this beauty on their own and share it with the others. Since 2009, the company has been holding a non-stop contest of scientific art images obtained with Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM). Each month, researchers from around the world submit their AFM scans to the
ProIMAGE contest site, where online visitors are able to vote for their favorites. You can see the major part of photos. It is indeed an international event. Many participants from various countries figured out that it was not a tough competition, but a festival, an opportunity to share and appreciate the beauty in a very unusual form! The photos presented proved that scientists were as human as others; they were not alienated from the beauty of the world. Look at the photo beneath - this beautiful young girl won one of the prizes.


Fig. 4. One of the winners of ProIMAGE contest. Believe it or not, she is a scientist!


Fig. 5. Here is an AFM-image of polyvinyl alcohol film, with trypsin as a dopant. In the image you can see a crystalline part of the polymer film. Doesn't it somehow remind you Degas's dancers?!

They value beautiful events at NT-MDT. Not only they work hard, but also they know how to repose and have fun. Look here at the festivities hold on the campus of the Moscow State University in November 2009 during IV Festival of Science they sponsored. Aren't the fireworks amazing?! Expensive also, I guess… They really know how to attract people. In old Russia the best way to engage people was to open a barrel of vodka and pour it without limits until everyone is drunk. It looks like a new Russian tradition is introduced. And the fellows from NT-MDT are among those who offer new modern ways of entertainment and launch new traditions.

Now let us talk about another big event: NT-MDT Company traditionally sponsors nanotechnology Internet Olympics. They believe in importance of young generation of scientists being able to study the scientific equipment with high tech devices designed and manufactured in their own country. This year more than 8,000 young people from all the regions of the country have participated in the Internet qualifying rounds. Best 165 arrived in Moscow to take part in the live final tournament. Out of those twelve of them that had had NanoEducator experience before, one won the 3-d place and five entered the top 20. It's obvious that NanoEducators do help to raise strong school students - "rising stars".

Did you know that NT-NDT Company is actively involved in development of various Internet educational nanotechnology resources? There are animated educating pages on the Company website. There is also a new unique popular-science site ASDN (ASDN stands for Atomic Scale Design Network), where most of the articles have been written by prominent scientists. NT-MDT is one of the major players in the development of this resource.

In December 2008 the exposition National priorities - XXI Century was launched in the Russian Museum of Contemporary History. Yet, NT-MDT participated with some of their amazing prize winning products - NTEGRA Spectra, NanoFab, NanoEducator, etc. According to the General Director of the Company Victor Bykov "…their goal was to show the new generation of young Russian scientists that their homeland company is capable to develop and manufacture up to date scientific equipment and, if they want, they can participate in this process…"

In old times, Russia was famous for their patrons who donated their wealth to enlighten their own people for the glory of the country. They opened Art museums, schools, and libraries in order to educate the nation, particularly young generation, thinking about the future of the country. It looks like those guys from NT-MDT are trying to revive this tradition. Russia needs educators and enlighteners, devoted to their country, caring about its future.

The interest is mutual: thanks to their enlightening activities NT-MDT gathers the best students from all over the country. Later many of them become the Company employees. This personnel attracting strategy brings a good harvest: yet in the year of 2000 the NT-MDT SPM world market share was negligible, but it grows constantly, and according to Future Markets Inc. report by the end of 2010 it already became ~16% (the second greatest share in the world market). The results of 2011 promise to be even more impressive - NT-MDT recently announced that the first half of the year had been very successful for the company. The sales volume for SPM equipment almost doubled compared to the same period of the previous year. Significant growth was achieved in all main regions of the global market. The growth in the U.S. exceeded 40%, in Europe - 60%, and it even more than tripled in Asia.

There exists a wise Chinese saying: "If you are planning for a year - plant rice, if you are planning for decades - plant trees, if you are planning for the centuries - raise kids". NT-MDT - is a company that thinks and acts strategically for themselves and for good of their country.

And the last, but not the least. The SPM based scientific training laboratory NanoEducator II in 2011 has been awarded by R&D Magazine as one of One hundred most significant R & D products introduced to the market over the past year.
This is a new important episode in the history of NT-MDT - the company famous not only for their instrumentation achievements, but for their great educating outreach programs.

More stories about the NanoEducators -in my next article.

Eugene Birger

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