Futurescape City Tour educates public on nanotechnology in Phoenix

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The Futurescape City Tour brought ASU students and Phoenix residents together at the ASU Downtown campus to discuss how nanotechnology can affect the city’s future. (Danielle Gregory/DD)

ASU students worked alongside Phoenix citizens to explore the future of nanotechnology in the city and presented their work at the Downtown campus Nursing and Health Innovation 2 building Friday night.

The goal of the project, called the Futurescape City Tour, was to gather a group of citizens and discuss the impact and consequences of nanotechnology and learn the public’s view on it, said Jathan Sadowski, the project’s communications specialist.

Sadowski, an ASU student, defined nanotechnology as manipulation at the atomic level. The main ways the group learned about nanotechnology was in terms of water purification and solar energy, he said.

The Futurescape City Tour, funded by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU, is a unique type of public engagement initiative in that it’s a hands-on conversation with citizens, Sadowski said.

“We are trying to learn from them. It’s much more interactive,” Sadowski said.

Friday’s gallery was organized into three sections: past, present and future. There was also a room separate from the gallery with a slideshow of pictures and videos that were intended to capture the essence of Phoenix.

Sadowski highlighted solar panels as an area nanotechnology can improve. This was also one of the group’s main focus points. He hopes people who attended the event will “be inspired themselves to go walk around Phoenix.”

The project started when Sadowski and the other five leaders advertised the idea for the tour and began accepting applications to be in the citizen group. They received many applications and chose 18 people to participate, Sadowski said.

The group then chose three areas that nanotechnology could improve — water, public transportation and solar panels — and went on an in-depth city tour to see what these areas looked like currently, Sadowski said. The tour brought them to places like the Bioscience High School, the light rail and the canal.

Mindy Kimball, a Ph.D. student and one of the students leading the project, emphasized the various benefits to such a unique public engagement project.

Nanotechnology was at the core of this project, Sadowski said. They tried to connect nanotechnology to all the aspects of the project.

“It could be a new way to get new and different people involved who wouldn’t be excited to sit in a conference room all day,” Kimball said.

Kimball also said that some of the participants felt like tourists in their own city.

Sylvia Planer, a citizen participant, learned that people don’t interact with the technology itself, but through products that use it.

Planer said she also learned that there are a lot of good things in Phoenix already, like graffiti solar panels and community gardens. She hopes these things are the future of Phoenix as well.

Phoenix businessman Rob Melikian said he saw spots in Phoenix he didn’t even know existed.

“The tour was the best way to learn, hands on,” Melikian said.

Melikian said after participating in this tour that the future of nanotechnology is wide open, but he emphasized the importance of making sure it is used to promote sustainability efforts.

“There are businessmen ready to pounce that is why it is important to get sustainability efforts in the conversation,” Melikian said.

Contact the reporter at sophia.mayberry@asu.edu