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UH initiative will use 'Harry Potter' to conjure love for science in Houston-area schools
Date:4/20/2009

Hoping that science will cast a spell on local middle and high school students, a University of Houston team is starting a program that will harness the magical draw of the Harry Potter series to make technical subjects resonate in local classrooms.

Funded by a nearly $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the Innovations in Nanotechnology and NanoSciences initiative will pair teachers from the Houston, Dickinson and Galena Park school districts with graduate students from the Cullen College of Engineering and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

"Despite being an adult, the story of Harry Potter and his magical world struck me both as an individual and a scientist. Clearly, most kids and many other adults also share this fascination," Pradeep Sharma, the associate professor who is heading the program, said. "The tantalizing part is that several aspects of the 'magic' in Harry Potter can be explained by science or is certainly achievable in the future, given the way technology is leaping forward."

One example that would easily translate in the classroom, Sharma said, is Harry's magical cloak, which makes him invisible.

"There is intense research going on based on nanotechnology to create such cloaking materials. Admittedly, it will be quite a while before we can vanish a la Harry Potter, but, using this example, a teacher could motivate the discussion of optics, the study of how light propagates and behaves," said Sharma.

The five-year program aims to breathe new life into math and science curricula at a time when fewer American students are pursuing technical fields. Sharma says he hopes to instill in students passion and creativity that will drive successful careers and, eventually, fill the growing gap in the American work force.

The teachers selected for the program will be brought up to speed on nanoscience topics through an annual short course taught by UH faculty member
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Contact: Angela Hopp
ahopp@uh.edu
713-743-8153
University of Houston
Source:Eurekalert

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