LEGO2NANO returns with a new challenge for young scientists from China and the UK.
Last year 32 UK and Chinese scientists successfully developed of a new type of low-cost scanning probe microscope, made out of Lego, with the power to see objects a millionth of a metre in size. Competing in four interdisciplinary teams, they needed just a week to build a working version of an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM).
The challenge in LEGO2NANO 2014 is to help bring the winning design to high school students around the world. This year’s participants – drawn from the LCN, from UCL’s Institute of Making, Tsinghua University and Peking University – are competing in Beijing to develop and develop an open-source AFM. Using Arduino, Lego, cheap 3D printable parts and local components. Many times cheaper than research-grade AFMs, these low-cost devices enable experiments to be carried out around the world, collecting a much larger volume of data to share and compare.
Participants this year focus on the development of four areas: hardware, software, crowdcrafting and crowdfunding. The aim is to achieve a working open source design for an AFM, enabling them to explore materials on a nano scale, and upload their findings to an online database. This low-cost equipment, coupled with an open science and open source approach, means that non-scientists, including high school students, can become involved in real science.