The talent behind the “What is Nanotechnology?” video project includes (from left) Madison Turnmire ’16, sound engineer; Justin Warren, animation; School of Music assistant professor Damon Sink; and School of Art and Design associate professor Mary Anna LaFratta.


Student and faculty create videos to explain nanotechnology


Western Carolina University students designed and created animated videos to explain nanotechnology and its importance that received significant national attention. Three 60-second informative videos, “What is Nanotechnology?,” “Nanotechnology and Your Health” and “Nanotechnology Materials,” were produced in a motion graphics class (Art 460) taught by Mary Anna LaFratta, associate professor in the WCU School of Art and Design.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative released “What is Nanotechnology?” as part of the first in a series to show how it is possible to both educate and inspire students through nanotechnology. The video, produced by WCU student Justin Warren, was subsequently included on a White House blog and the Science Matters website, as well as National Public Radio’s “Community Ideas Stations.” It aired on two Public Broadcasting Service TV stations in central Virginia and was shared via social media platforms.

Each animation explains the significance of studying the super-small – a nanometer is a standard unit for measuring things as tiny as atoms and molecules – for health and medical research, computer science, manufacturing and natural sciences. The National Science and Technology Council has identified nanotechnology as one of the emerging general-purpose technologies that, like electricity and the internet, will have a pervasive impact on the economy and society, with the ability to create entirely new industries, create jobs and increase productivity.

The many facets and daily life applications of nanotechnology as presented by the animations is meant to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Professors and students in WCU’s Communication Department and School of Music joined with the School of Art and Design class to compose original music, record voice-over narration and build animation sequences.