In the last twenty years nanotechnology has revolutionized the world of information theory, computers and other important disciplines, such as medicine, where it has contributed significantly in the creation of more sophisticated diagnostic tools. Therefore, it is important for people working in nanotechnology to better understand basic concepts to be more creative and productive. To further foster the progress on Nanotechnology in the USA, the National Science Foundation has created the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) and the dissemination of all the information from member and non-member participants of the NCN is enabled by the community website www.nanoHUB.org. nanoHUB's signature services online simulation that enables the operation of sophisticated research and educational simulation engines with a common browser. No software installation or local computing power is needed. The simulation tools as well as nano-concepts are augmented by educational materials, assignments, and toolbased curricula, which are assemblies of tools that help students excel in a particular area. As elaborated later in the text, it is the visual mode of learning that we are exploiting in achieving faster and better results with students that go through simulation tool-based curricula. There are several tool based curricula already developed on the nanoHUB and undergoing further development, out of which five are directly related to nanoelectronics. They are: ABACUS - device simulation module; ACUTE - Computational Electronics module; ANTSY - bending toolkit; and AQME - quantum mechanics module. The methodology behind tool-based curricula is discussed in details. Then, the current status of each module is presented, including user statistics and student learning indicatives. Particular simulation tool is explored further to demonstrate the ease by which students can grasp information. Representative of Abacus is PN-Junction Lab; representative of AQME is PCPBT tool; and representative of ACUTE is SCHRED, which has 97 citations in research papers and is the most popular tool on nanoHUB.org. Surveys were collected from three courses offered at Arizona State University. These courses were: EEE434/591, the Quantum Mechanics class offered in the fall 2007; EEE 101 Engineering Design, offered in the spring 2008; and EEE533 Semiconductor Device and Process Simulation, offered in the fall 2009. The study consisted of students participating in a voluntary Likertscale survey that focused on: Learning outcomes, Evidence of the learning, Pedagogical approach and Usability aspects. In particular, the survey investigated how intuitive the tools are. The results of the study identified differences in the way students perceived the nanoHUB.org simulation tools. Graduate and undergraduate students reported more positive experiences with nanoHUB.org simulations than freshman students did. Potential explanations for these differences are: a) freshman students have not fully developed graphical literacy skills; b) students may lack the prior knowledge required at the time they interact with the tool; and c) students may lack interests in the topic and have not yet seen the value of how these tools can be applied toward their own learning goals. A potential support to overcome some of these difficulties may be by embedding just-intime instructional supports together with the simulation tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-104
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • AQME
  • NanoHUB
  • Terms-ABACUS
  • Tool-based curricula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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