An Outreach Model: Modular and Simple
Article Author:
Summary of Activity:

I’m sharing our Outreach model that we’ve done many times since initiation in 2009. I’m sharing it here because it’s easy and well-defined. It’s the type of program that a small chapter could do. Even if your chapter is not currently doing outreach activities, you could take one or more of these modules to try it out. It offers a simple approach without need for the team to meet much beforehand.

Estimated Prep Time:
Estimated Activity Time:
Estimated Total Hours:
  • Nuclear 101
  • Nuclear Power
  • Radiation Protection & Health Physics
Target Audience:
  • Primary School Students
Submission Type:
Ready-To-Go Event
Activity Type:
Activity or Demonstration
Detailed Description and Instructions:

We briefly introduce ourselves and explain the Women in Nuclear goals of educating people about

nuclear power and promoting the pursuit of science and engineering careers.

10-15 minutes per activity (six activities)

  1. M&M half-life: Kids have a Dixie cup, 20 M&Ms and a graph. We explain that radioactive material emits energy in the form of radiation. The radiation is emitted by radioactive decay. Kids “roll” M&Ms each half-life (1/2 minute) and eat the blank ones, graphing the remaining number. Kid repeat “rolling” for 6-7 half-lives. They compare graphs and compare to the theoretical graph.
  2. Commercial Nuclear Power Cycle: The major components of a nuclear power cycle are explained. The reactor and primary loop are called out as small and inside the containment building. The steam generator, turbine and condenser are explained to be the portion doing the work and separated from the primary loop. The cooling towers are explained to be a third, separate, system that only uses river (or sea) water to cool the condenser. A picture of Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant (near Pittsburgh) is shown. Kids are asked to participate acting out the power cycle as it is explained.
  3. Candy reactor: Kids build a candy reactor using a Dixie cup (reactor vessel), Nerds (fuel pellets), straws (fuel cladding), Twizzlers (control rods), and 7-up (reactor coolant). The components are explained as they construct it.
  4. Natural Exposure: Kids learn about natural sources of radiation and typical natural annual exposure levels. Each kids receives an item, then joins with others that have the same item to guess relative exposure levels of air, food, air travel and living near a nuclear power plant. An American Nuclear Society sheet to compute natural exposure is handed out at the end.
  5. ALARA philosophy: We contrast natural exposure to occupational exposure in the nuclear field. We discuss the methods to minimize occupational radiation exposure (keep it As Low As Reasonably Achievable) and show disposable Anti Contamination clothing. We conduct an activity with Cheetos as radioactive material where each kid tries to “reduce exposure and not get contaminated” while doing a task to move Cheetos to a cup.
  6. Nuclear medicine: Applications in medicine like CT scans and PET scans are discussed. The need for nuclear isotopes to do these procedures is discussed. The benefit for creating models from the data gathered is discussed. CT scans are passed around the room. Rapid prototypes are passed around the room. Kids work in pairs to “reconstruct” a sliced orange to demonstrate the “slice” concept of CT images and 3D printing.

The wrap up: We give our names and backgrounds. We have a handout with engineering disciplines and explanations. The handout for younger children is shorter and has a word search. Overall, the full program can be 1 to 2 hours. We can also do shorter versions without the full content. For example, we can do just the commercial power cycle and candy reactors (and introductions) in about 35 minutes.

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