Each Spring, the International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN) sponsors the All Scout Nano Day. Conceived by Michael Kleppinger, Northrup Grumman engineer and assistant scoutmaster, with help from Eagle Scout and Northwestern Professor Richard Van Duyne, the event has brought nearly 1,600 Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Venturing Crew members to the Northwestern University campus to learn about nanotechnology.
All Scout Nano Day includes presentations by graduate students and professors on “What is Nanotechnology?” and “Being a Scientist,” demonstrations of high-end laboratory equipment, and hands-on activities that illustrate nanoscience concepts. It also includes an informational session for parents on how to encourage and support their children’s interest in science and engineering. Each troop is also invited to present a poster (prepared in advance) on a nanotechnology concept or discovery. A team of graduate student reviews the posters for content and creativity. The day concludes with a pizza party and poster award ceremony.
The innovative All Scout Nano Day program has proven successful in encouraging children and adolescents to further their education in science and engineering. In 2016, Kepplinger checked in on the first group of All Scout Nano Day participants to see if and how the 2003 event influenced their education and career choices. Indeed, many of the students had gone on to attend engineering and science programs at prestigious universities including Stanford, Northwestern, Cornell, Purdue, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois. Today, many of the first All Scout Nano Day participants are working for medical and tech companies throughout the U.S.