Dr. Kevin Walsh judges Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes

July 11, 2017

Superheroes comes in all shapes and sizes, no matter how big or small, which is the central motivation behind Generation Nano, a drive by the National Science Foundation to encourage high school age students to consider how nano-technology touches the world around us. A four-person panel judged the competition, including Paul Weiss, distinguished faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles, comic book professionals Annie Wu (illustrator Hawkeye; Black Canary) and Majorie Liu (X-23, Monstress), and our very own Dr. Kevin Walsh.

A longtime fan of the form, Walsh was happy to have the opportunity to participate, which he attributes in part to the continued growth of our micro-nano facilities on campus. To start things off, he was prompted to put together a video as an example for potential participants.

“I proposed Gecko Man. They have these pads on their limbs through Van der Waal Force. It’s a nano-technology related phenomena. When things can get close enough at the molecular level, it’s not magnetic, it’s not electric,” says Walsh.

From there, the students were tasked with coming up with a comic book, later to be animated into a video, that not only explained the super power, but how it related to nano-technology and served the good of humanity. Walsh and the rest of the judges conducted independent reviews to determine a winner, a character named ‘Dilatant’.

He explains, “He had nano-technology inspired suit. His suit was a little bit different (from Ant-Man). It was liquid until a force impacted it. Then the nano-technology particles would aggregate together do to some sort of sheer force imparted to the suit and it would create a super hard solid material at that area. What was cute on it, it was a nice flexible suit, until it needed to be rigid.”

The contest was limited only to the imagination of the creators involved, which included suits that granted super strength and invisibility, technologies theoretically feasible via meta-materials.

“One of the criteria was what science was the super power based on. They all had to be based on something working on out there.”

You can see more from the contestants here.