SCIENCE OF INNOVATION: Electronic Tattoos - An Engineering Perspective (Grades 6-12)

Objective:


Framework for K-12 Science Education - LS1.D: Information Processing, PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter, PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life, ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions, ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology, ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World


Introduction Notes:


Science of innovation

Electronic Tattoo

An Engineering Perspective (Grades 6–12)

 

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office
and the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning

 

About the Video

This video highlights ultra-thin, flexible, elastic membranes capable of detecting and recording electrical signals from the heart, brain, and various other muscles and organs by simply adhering to a person’s skin. The nanomembranes, which have been dubbed “electronic tattoos” because of their similarities to temporary tattoos, are much, much thinner than a single strand of human hair, yet include silicon-based circuitry that can be used to monitor functions inside the body. This technology was a collaborative effort among various scientists, including John Rogers, a materials scientist and electrical engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Yonggang Huang, an engineer who specializes in the mechanics of curvilinear materials and who is currently at Northwestern University.

 

0:00     0:14     Series opening

0:15     0:30     Some current medical technologies

0:31     0:43     Introducing electronic tattoos

0:44     1:48     How Rogers and Huang met

1:49     2:14     The semiconductive property of silicon

2:15     3:37     Developing the electronic tattoo prototypes

3:38     3:57     Inspirations for electronic tattoos

3:58     4:21     How the tattoo works

4:22     4:54     Rogers’s and Huang’s patents

4:55     5:23     Conclusion

5:24     5:36     Closing credits

 

Language Support

To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, make transcript of the video available. Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

Framework for K-12 Science Education

      LS1.D: Information Processing

      PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

      PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

      ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

      ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology

      ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

 

(page 1)


 

Emphasize Innovation

 

The Innovation Process

Collaboration

An important part of the innovation process is collaboration and the synthesis of ideas from different disciplines. As shown in the video, Drs. Rogers and Huang are experts in two very different fields – yet they are working together to combine their knowledge and expertise to produce nanomembranes, or what have been called “electronic tattoos.”

 

Rogers and Huang have filed more than 10 patents related to their research on  nanomembranes in order to protect their intellectual property rights. A start-up company called MC10, which was co-founded by Rogers, has licensed the multiple patents and patent applications of electronic tattoos in order to potentially develop other types of flexible healthcare devices, including “electrical socks” that have the potential to prevent irregular heartbeats when adhered to the heart, or seizures when applied to the brain’s surface.

 

Take Action with Students

Collaborative efforts are common classroom strategies, but the “jigsaw” format mimics the collaborative efforts of Rogers and Huang. This strategy has students number off in small groups, such as 1 to 4.  All of the 1s, for example, then convene as a group to become experts on a topic or investigative strategy. After gaining their expert knowledge, the original groups reconvene, each containing numbers 1 to 4. There, each person relays their expert knowledge to the rest of the group as they work together to accomplish a task.

 

Innovation and STEM

The innovation highlighted in Science of Innovation (SOI): Electronic Tattoo incorporates many aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  For example, required science knowledge includes an understanding that electrical resistance is related to both a material’s physical and chemical properties, and that electricity flows through some materials more easily than through others. Math concepts involve the calculations that enable comparisons of conductivity and algorithms for resistivity. Starting with a vision and relying on science and math knowledge, Rogers and Huang collaborated on improving a technology by finding a way to fashion semiconducting silicon into tiny wires that could be embedded into ultra-thin, flexible membranes. The membranes would adhere to the skin without the use of adhesives and would still allow the silicon to function as a semiconductor. One aspect of the engineering design process is the development of prototypes and their testing and revision. Rogers and Huang collaborated for years developing prototypes of their electronic tattoos. Many engineering design efforts have multiple prototypes that are “on the table” at the same time. Each is considered in terms of cost, materials, and manufacturability, and, of course, the end user of the product or process.

 

Take Action with Students

         Using the Design Investigations section of Facilitate Inquiry as a guide, encourage students to design a thin, flexible membrane that is able to conduct electricity.  As a class, set up constraints within which students will have to design their own electronic tattoos, such as

 

                                                                                  (page 2)

 

providing a limited selection of materials with which to work; constructing a device with a given area, thickness, and mass; and one that adheres to the skin. Other constraints might include that it maintains conductivity within a range of values, and the conductivity remains the same or nearly so after the membrane has been stretched or flexed in some way.

         Spark innovative thought by telling students that Rogers and Huang have worked with others from Johns Hopkins University to use similar patches to electrically stimulate the legs of rats, making the membranes potentially useful in the field of physical therapy, and that membranes that snuggly fit a cardiac surgeon’s fingertips would allow the surgeon to perform the operation more tactilely than visually. Or show them other unusual applications of electronics such as those directed by Leah Buechley at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at http://www.media.mit.edu/people/leah.

 

Facilitate Inquiry

Encourage inquiry using a strategy modeled on the research-based science writing heuristic. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use the prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion. Student Copy Masters begin on page 9.

 

Explore Understanding

Introduce this video by having students observe you as you apply a simple temporary tattoo to the back of your hand or your forearm. Spark their thinking with the following prompts:

         An actual tattoo is made by….

         A tattoo like the one applied here is different from an actual tattoo in that….

         This temporary tattoo is about the same thickness as….

         This tattoo “sticks” to human skin because….

 

Show the video SOI: Electronic Tattoo and encourage students to jot down notes while they watch. Continue the discussion of flexible membranes such as the temporary tattoo, and introduce the electric component of Rogers’s and Huang’s innovation, using prompts such as the following:

         When I watched the video, I thought about….

         Some of the devices used to “see” inside the human body include….

         The experts in the video claimed that _____ because….

         Rogers and Huang began working together when….

         Rogers and Huang used materials that….

         Some of the breakthroughs that allowed Rogers and Huang to develop their tattoos were….

         When applied to the skin, the electronic tattoos in the video can….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: This video makes me think about these questions…. Then have small groups list questions they have about how to make an electronic membrane that conducts electricity. Ask groups to choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable. Some examples are as follows:

 

(page 3)

         What types of materials easily conduct electricity?

         What types of materials resist the flow of electricity?

         What types of materials are thin and flexible?

         What types of materials are safe to use on human skin?

 

Design Investigations

Choose one of the following options based on your students’ knowledge, creativity, and ability level and your available materials. Actual materials needed will vary greatly based on these factors as well.

 

Possible Materials

Allow time for students to examine and manipulate the materials you have available. Doing so often aids students in refining their questions, or prompts new ones that should be recorded for future investigation. In this inquiry, students might use balances, metric rulers, and multimeters to measure and test their electronic membranes. Students might use plastic food wrap or storage bags, “cellophane” tape, masking tape, school glue or glue sticks, aluminum foil, flexible plastics, thin fabric, tracing paper, Mylar™, non-latex balloons, pressure-sensitive adhesives, gauze squares, thin wires made of cooper, aluminum, or steel, mechanical pencil  “lead,” and/or powdered graphite to construct their membranes.  Students might also need scissors, tweezers, and batteries.

 

Safety Considerations

To augment your own safety procedures, see NSTA’s Safety Portal at http://www.nsta.org/portals/safety.aspx.  

 

Open Choice Approach(Copy Master page 9)

Groups might come together to agree on using the same materials to make similar model membranes, or each group might experiment with different materials to make their models. Students should brainstorm any and all ideas in order to form a plan they would have to follow in order construct models within the constraints and to make accurate measurements.  Planning might include researching background information. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         Information we need to understand before we can start our investigation is….

         The materials we will use include….

         The steps we will follow are….

         We will test our models by using….

         We will record and organize our data using….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

 

Focused Approach(Copy Master pages 10)

The following exemplifies one way students might construct an adhesive, flexible membrane than conducts electricity within the given constraints.

1.      Allow time for groups to examine all of the materials available to them. Give students free rein in determining which materials they plan to use as long as they can justify their choices. Remind students of the design constraints established in the Innovation and STEM: Take Action section. Encourage students to think about how they can make a model membrane similar to the electronic tattoos shown in the video using the following prompts:

 

                                                                                (page 4)

         The electronic tattoos discussed in the video are made of….

         Some of the physical properties of the tattoos include….

         The tattoos conduct electricity because….

         We could use _____ to make our tattoos because….

         We are not going to use _____ because we think it/they will….

2.      Students will likely need a tutorial before using the multimeter.  Demonstrate how it can be used to measure the resistivity across a mechanical pencil “lead” while providing these prompts:

         If the leads are touching, the resistivity….

         To measure the resistivity across a composite, the leads….

3.      To make an electronic membrane that models those discussed in the video, students might use tweezers to put a very thin layer of powdered graphite onto the adhesive side of a piece of cellophane tape, leaving a few millimeters on both ends of the tape uncovered. Students might then cover the graphite with another piece of tape, making sure to leave the sticky ends of the first piece of tape uncovered. Students could put their tattoo on a volunteer and use the multimeter to measure either its conductivity or resistivity. Students might then remove the tattoo, twist and flex it, reapply it to the volunteer, and re-measure its conductivity or resistivity. Students might also make use of aluminum foil on masking tape. Help students visualize their models and procedures using these or similar prompts:

         The physical properties of our model membrane should be….

         We will give our tattoo electrical properties by….

         To make sure that our model tattoos adhere to the constraints, we will….

         To safely test the electrical properties of our tattoos, we will….

4.      As students work, remind them to make detailed drawings of their tattoos in their notebooks. Also, make sure they understand the importance of making accurate measurements by using these, or similar, prompts:

         We will measure the size of our tattoo to the nearest _____ .

         We will measure the mass of our electronic membrane to the nearest_____.

         We will measure resistivity/conductivity to the nearest _____ .

5.      Students might continue their investigations by constructing “new and improved” tattoos from the same materials, or by constructing new tattoos from different materials because of problems encountered with the original designs.

 

Media Research Option

Groups might have questions that are best explored using print media and online resources. Students should brainstorm to form a list of key words and phrases they could use in Internet search engines that might result in resources that will help them answer the question. Review how to safely browse the Web, how to evaluate information on the Internet for accuracy, and how to correctly cite the information found. Suggest students make note of any interesting tangents they find in their research effort for future inquiry. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         Words and phrases associated with our question are….

         The reliability of our sources was established by….

         The science and math concepts that underpin a possible solution are….

         Our research might feed into an engineering design solution such as….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

(page 5)

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their investigations, ensure that they record their observations and measurements. Students should analyze their observations in order to state one or more claims. Encourage students with this prompt: As evidenced by… we claim… because….

 

An example claim might be:

As evidenced byour final design, we claim that a membrane made from ordinary invisible tape and powdered graphite is a good model because the membrane was flexible, it stuck to the skin, and it conducted electricity as measured by our multimeter probe. 

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their ideas with those of others—such as classmates who investigated the same or similar questions; material they found on the Internet; experts they chose to interview; or their textbooks. Remind students to credit their original sources in their comparisons. Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as:

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Students might make comparisons like the following:

Our tattoos were similar to those discussed in the video because they are flexible, transparent, adhesive, and conduct electricity. Our tattoos were different from those discussed in the video because ours did not contain actual circuits, they included an adhesive, and the conducting material in our models was graphite, not silicon.

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or what they know now that they didn’t before. Ask groups to give short presentations about their investigations and encourage questions from the audience on their thinking and creative process as well as on their procedures and results. Encourage reflection, using prompts such as the following:

         My ideas about this topic have because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the experts, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

Inquiry Assessment

See the rubric included in the student Copy Masters on page 11.

 

 

 

 

 

(page 6)

 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Bellringer:  As students get settled, play the video once or twice with the audio off, having students rely on the images alone to get an introduction to the nanomembranes dubbed  “electronic tattoos.”

Homework:  Have students research the various patents held by Rogers and Huang for their work on electronic tattoos. Ask students to summarize their findings and be prepared to present them to the class as a short—1 minute or less—oral report, or informational flyer that includes at least one visual.

 

Using the 5E Approach?

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these Es:

Explain:  Use the information in the video and students’ results from the Design Investigations section of Facilitate Inquiry to support your lessons on properties of matter and electricity.

Extend: Some students might be interested in investigating the conductivity of their own skin and some of the factors that affect it. 

 

Connect to … Technology

Biomimicry:  According to Dr. Huang, some of the inspiration for the non-adhesive electrical tattoos came from observing organisms such as geckos, which are able to “stick” to a surface – not as the result of adhesives, or of a film of water between them and the surface to which they are sticking, but rather as the result of weak molecular attractive forces called van der Waals forces. Have students do research to find out about other innovations for which inspiration came from observations of nature, such as: windows and paints that exhibit the lotus effect; navigational systems for the blind that use echolocation, similar to that used by bats and other animals; and “smart” fabrics that open and close in respond to temperature changes, much like pine cones do.

 

Prompt Innovation with Video

After students watch the video, have them research patents associated with exoskeletons and bionic limbs. They can do so with an Internet search on Google.com/patents using search terms such as the following. If time is limited, point students toward the following patents.

 

Primary Search Terms

Circuitry

Integrated Circuit

CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor)

Semiconductor

Adherence/Adhesive

Curvilinear

Flexible

Foldable

Nanostructured component

Nanoribbon

Ultrathin

Additional Helpful Search Terms

Medical/Biological

Stretchable

Foldable

Bendable

Contoured

Detector

Sensor

Gauge

Stress/Strain/Shear

Stamp

Mask

Applicator

                                                                                     (page 7)

 

Patent Examples

6,743,982 – Stretchable interconnects in a sensor array, supported for relative movements

2005/0038498 – medical device having a plurality of nanostructured components

2008/0157235 – stretchable component of a device to be applied to skin

7,622,367 – method for providing a printable semiconductor element on a receiving surface of a substrate

 

Suggest students read abstracts of patents that attract their attention. Then hold a discussion about how various innovators are improving on the process. Use prompts such as the following:

         This patent is for _____, which is related to the invention shown in the video by….

         This patent describes _____, which differs from the invention shown in the video in that….

         I think doing/making _____ would be an innovation because….

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 8)

 

 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Electronic Tattoo

Use this as a guide to make and test an electronic tattoo that can be compared to those discussed in the video. Record all of your notes and observations in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Choose your materials and brainstorm with your teammates to discuss how you will make and test your tattoo. Take notes on your discussions. Look up information as needed. Add safety precautions. Use the following prompts to help you:

         Information we need to understand before we can start our investigation is….

         The materials we will use include….

         The steps we will follow are….

         We will record and organize our data using….

         To conduct our investigation safely, we will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record and organize your data and observations using detailed drawings and/or tables.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your results and make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing your procedure and testing.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your design with classmates who made and tested the same or a similar tattoo. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My findings are similar to (or different from) the experts in the video in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) my classmates in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) what I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas about this topic have changed because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the experts, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

(page 9)

COPY MASTER: Focused Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Electronic Tattoo

Use this guide to make and test an electronic membrane that adheres to the given constraints. Record your notes and observations in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

How can we make a membrane that is similar to an electronic tattoo?

 

Design Investigations

Discuss with your group how you might make a model electronic tattoo, given your constraints, from the materials available. Use these prompts to help you.

         Our model membrane must have these physical properties….

         We will give our tattoo electrical properties by….

         To make sure that our model tattoos adhere to the constraints, we will….

         To safely test the electrical properties of our tattoos, we will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record and organize your data and observations using detailed drawings and/or tables such as that below.

 

Drawing of Our Electronic Tattoo(s)

Initial Resistivity (Ω•m)/Conductivity (S•m-1)

Final Resistivity (Ω•m)/Conductivity (S•m-1)

 

 

 

 

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your results and then make one or more claims based on the evidence you observed.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and discuss your results with classmates who made similar models. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My findings are similar to (or different from) information I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas about this topic have because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the experts, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is…..

 

(page 10)

 

Copy Master: Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

 

 

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question

Question had a yes/no answer, was off topic, or otherwise was not researchable or testable.

Question was researchable or testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question clearly stated, researchable or testable, and showed direct relationship to investigation.

Investigation design

The design of the investigation did not support a response to the initial question.

While the design supported the initial question, the procedure used to collect data (e.g., number of trials, or control of variables) was not sufficient.

Variables were clearly identified and controlled as needed with steps and trials that resulted in data that could be used to answer the question.

Variables

Either the dependent or independent variable was not identified.

While the dependent and independent variables were identified, no controls were present.

Variables identified and controlled in a way that results in data that can be analyzed and compared.

Safety procedures

Basic laboratory safety procedures were followed, but practices specific to the activity were not identified.

Some, but not all, of the safety equipment was used and only some safe practices needed for this investigation were followed.

Appropriate safety equipment used and safe practices adhered to.

Observations and data

Observations were not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

Observations were made, but were not very detailed, or data appear invalid or were not recorded appropriately.

Detailed observations were made and properly recorded and data are plausible and recorded appropriately.

Claim

No claim was made or the claim had no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim was marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim was backed by investigative or research evidence.

Findings comparison

Comparison of findings was limited to a description of the initial question.

Comparison of findings was not supported by the data collected.

Comparison of findings included both methodology and data collected by at least one other entity.

Reflection

Student reflection was limited to a description of the procedure used.

Student reflections were not related to the initial question.

Student reflections described at least one impact on thinking.

 

(page 11)

 

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