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Fall is back-to-school time, which also means it's time for another exciting challenge from FIRST LEGO League.

September 21st, 2007

MEMS & Nanotechnology for Kids

For those of you with kids, and for those of you who know people with kids, it's that time of year again for two very important activities: back-to-school and another exciting challenge from FIRST LEGO league. I'm so pleased to be playing a role in both instances this year.

From a school perspective, parents and teachers will be interested to know about a new book called MEMS & Nanotechnology for Kids. Just 32-pages long, with 80 color photos, it provides a basic introduction to MEMS devices and nanomaterials, including how they work, what makes them special (as well as a few experiments kids can conduct), and how they're being used in a lot of things kids are familiar with, like bikes and video games.

I wrote this book for middle school students (basically kids age 11-14), although it may also be suitable for younger kids with a real interest in technology. If after reading the book they want more information, such as more details about the technologies, and a lot more end-use examples, then my other book, A Consumer's Guide to MEMS & Nanotechnology, would be a great supplement for parents and teachers to have on hand. Part of the reason I focused on middle school students was the conversations I had last year with teams participating in the FIRST LEGO League.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, FIRST LEGO League is an international program that combines robotics (which are created using the LEGO Mindstorms kits) and a sports-like competition to solve real-world engineering challenges by applying science, math and technology. Last year's challenge was called Nano Quest and focused on the use of nanotechnology. The kids I talked with were SO interested in the possibilities—and were even more amazed by the applications in use today that I discussed. It was clear that providing real-life examples was sparking the imagination of these kids.

And that's really the whole point of the book, to encourage kids (both boys and girls alike) to pursue the study of science, technology, engineering, and math. Both books are available on my website,

As for FIRST LEGO League—this year, more than 100,000 students from around the world are projected to participate. The theme of this year's challenge was just announced and it's called Power Puzzle. So, the focus is on conventional and renewable energy technologies.

Over the next few weeks, a number of Bourne Report Podcast episodes will focus on the missions that kids need to solve in this year's event and of course, how MEMS, nanotechnology and other emerging technologies are playing a role. I'm sure many will be surprised at how they're already being put to use in solar panels, hydrogen-powered cars, water-powered dams, wind turbines, the electricity grid, coal mining, oil exploration, and corn-based ethanol. I've touched on many of these topics already in previous episodes.

For those of you who are participating in FIRST LEGO League, or know someone who is, please tell them about the Bourne Report Podcast as a resource for the event, as well as the books. And I'm encouraging all who are participating to email me any questions you may have about the role of emerging technologies in the power puzzle. I'd love to talk with even more teams this year.

The best of luck to all FIRST LEGO League teams!

This article is a transcript of the Bourne Report Podcast #61.

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© 2007 Bourne Research LLC. All rights reserved.

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