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Article updated: 5/22/2013 3:49 PM

Oakton receives grant to fund nanotechnology education

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Oakton Community College has received a $374,279 grant from the National Science Foundation to educate college and high school students in the emerging field of nanotechnology, officials said.

The college's board approved the funding, awarded through NSF's Advanced Technology Education program, on Tuesday. Oakton, which has campuses in Des Plaines and Skokie, began offering nanotechnology classes in January.

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale and is increasingly common in the computer, energy, biotech, and transportation fields. It is used to improve processes, tools or equipment by reducing its size and increasing efficiency.

Examples of the uses of nanotechnology include speeding up computer-based applications, helping doctors target specific cancerous cells for chemotherapy treatment while eliminating potential damage to nearby healthy cells, and producing more efficient and powerful batteries and solar cells.

The National Science Foundation estimates by 2015 the industry will need two million workers and roughly six million supporting positions globally.

The grant will allow Oakton to bring high school and community college faculty from throughout the state to the college's nanotechnology lab at Skokie's Illinois Science and Technology Park for training. Educators who complete the training can then access nanotechnology equipment in the lab remotely to conduct real-time experiments in their classrooms.

John Carzoli, Oakton's chair of physical sciences and professor of physics, will serve as project director.

"This gives Oakton a great foothold in nanotechnology," he said in a news release. "More importantly, we'll be able to spread nanotechnology education beyond our students and into the community."

The project is supported by the Nanotechnology Education, Employment, and Economic Development Initiative, a joint effort by Oakton, the village of Skokie, Forest City Enterprises, Inc., which owns and operates the Illinois Science and Technology Park, and the North Suburban Educational Region for Vocation Education, a career and technical education consortium consisting of nine north suburban high schools.

If the program is successful, Oakton could receive up to three years of grant funding totaling $820,583 from the National Science Foundation.

Students can enroll now in Oakton's eight-week Fundamentals of Nanotechnology I course, which will be offered starting June 3 at the college's Skokie campus, 7701 N. Lincoln Ave., and at the nanotechnology lab, 8025 Lamon Ave., Skokie. For more information, call (847) 376-7042 or email jcarzoli@oakton.edu.

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