On a recent Saturday at the Department of Energy, 45 Boy and Girl Scouts earned their Science Merit Badges/Patches, thanks to the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D staff that held an annual class for the scouts. Sponsored by the Energy Information Administration, the class covered the basics of nuclear science from elementary particles to nuclear power generation. Mini-courses, coordinated by Dr. Arden Dougan, included topics on electricity, energy, and nuclear science. The scouts took part in hands-on activities such as building an electroscope to detect charge, completing a circuit, using a Geiger counter, building atom models, and locating their nearest nuclear power plant.
Eight members of DNN R&D (and several of their family members), along with other DOE, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) employees taught the courses that were designed for kids aged 12 to 18. The American Nuclear Society provided informational handouts and Geiger counters that the scouts could take home after the event.
A high point of the day was the demonstration of the “mousetrap reactor” on loan from NIST. The reactor simulated nuclear fission through the collision of ping pong balls placed atop mouse traps. When the first trap was set off, the scouts were able to observe a visual representation of an atomic chain reaction.
You can view the photos and blog from the event here. Additional resources for nuclear science education can be at the following websites: