North Carolina REVT Teacher Takes Nano Research Back to Classroom

Outcome/accomplishment: Beginning October 2012, a military veteran teacher has been engaging in nanomaterials research in the ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials (RMB) at North Carolina A&T State University (NCAT) in Greensboro, NC. Mr. Eric Craven is a 6th grade science and math teacher at Kernodle Middle School, an ERC-RMB partner school in Greensboro. Under the guidance of RMB faculty Dr. Dhananjay Kumar, Craven has been working evenings in the ERC labs after his school duties on a nanofabrication process called pulsed laser deposition (PLD). The ERC full-time researchers and students have been working on generating titanium and titanium nitride nanowires and coatings. Mr. Craven is carving out a new related research area for himself – working with Dr. Kumar’s graduate student on developing and perfecting a protocol for making silver thin films and nanowires.


REVT Eric Craven in ERC-RMB lab
Pulsed laser deposition process
Silver nanofilm deposited by Craven

Impact/benefits: The REVT program is allowing Mr. Craven to experience cutting-edge hands-on research, including the frustrations and false starts that go with any envelope-pushing experimental research. He has gained training not only in the PLD manufacturing process, but also advanced materials characterization techniques such as X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. Additionally, he is auditing an undergraduate introductory nanotechnology class at NCAT co-taught by bioengineering faculty member Dr. Narayan Bhattarai and Prof. Kumar. With his diverse background and educational/professional career, Mr. Craven brings an altogether-different teaching style and perspective on teasing out the critical thinking process skills in his 6th graders. The REVT work is yielding multiple broader impacts:
  • Professional development of military veteran: Says Craven, “I’m always trying to grow in my professional and personal knowledge – this opportunity gives me new knowledge in a field that is so different from my prior experiences.
  • ~100 6th grade students annually: Says Craven, “I am emphasizing to my 100 sixth graders about how scientists’ experiments often fail, but that we learn just as much or more from those failures as our successes. The true value of experimentation is to step over the ashes of our failures towards planning for the next steps to take.
  • Leveraging NUE: The broader impacts of a concurrent NSF Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education (NUE) grant led by NCAT Profs. Bhattarai and Kumar are being leveraged by the attendance of the REVT.
  • Leveraging ERC-RMB: The year-round research involvement allowed by the ERC’s REVT supplement allow for deeper involvement of the military veteran as compared to other ERC-RMB RET participants, who only work for a 6-week summer duration. Mr. Craven’s positive experience has encouraged two of his science and math teaching colleagues to apply (and get accepted) to RMB’s Summer 2013 RET program. They are looking forward to working together on module development for deployment at their school in the coming academic year.
Explanation/ background: This REVT experience was made possible by a supplement to ERC-RMB from NSF EEC. REVT Program Manager at NSF: Mary Poats.
     The PLD process uses laser pulses to vaporize (ablate) a target material. The vapor cloud (plume) that develops gets deposited on the surface that needs to be coated (substrate). It provides a valuable processing route to generate wires as well as thin and thick coatings of exotic chemical compositions that can further be screened for cytotoxicity and biocompatibility.
     Armed with an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Virginia combined with ROTC experience on campus, Eric Craven served over 10 years in the United States Army (1983-1993), including postings in Fort Carson CO, Vilseck, Germany, and Fort Bragg, NC. He followed that up with a manufacturing engineering experience at Owens-Corning, a major manufacturer of fiberglass yarn used in textiles for printed circuit boards, fabrics and ballistic armor. Through North Carolina’s Lateral Entry Program for Teachers, Eric obtained teaching certification in middle school math and science and has taught since 2002 at Kernodle Middle School in Greensboro. He has aggressively followed professional development along with classroom teaching, earning a master’s of education in teaching and curriculum at UNC-Greensboro with a focus on middle school science, and National Board Certification as a math teacher.