IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Idaho National Laboratory will have a chance to shine online Feb. 18 with the premiere of a “Virtual Field Trip” produced by Discovery Education and the American Nuclear Society.
The 23-minute video will go live on the NavigatingNuclear.com website and have a local showing at Compass Academy in Idaho Falls. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on at INL — or even if you’ve taken an official tour — the field trip features guided visits to the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) and the Materials & Fuels Complex (MFC) and interviews with experts.
The release is in celebration of National Engineers Week and is the second virtual field trip to be posted on the “Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World” website. With support from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy, ANS and Discovery Education have partnered since 2018 to provide standards-aligned educational materials aimed at clarifying common misconceptions surrounding nuclear science while making a case for the role it can play in future technological applications.
“Navigating Nuclear and the virtual field trip at INL are great opportunities to illustrate to students what the U.S. energy future will look like, as well as show them how they can play a role in it,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. “DOE is a strong proponent of STEM education and demonstrating nuclear energy capabilities to the next generation can teach them about the careers that can contribute to a cleaner global environment.”
“This unique virtual experience will give students the opportunity to see cutting-edge research turn into applications for nuclear processes and their role in our world today,” said Eric Loewen, ANS past-president and chief consulting engineer of Advanced Nuclear Plants, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. “Along the way, students will witness the broad variety of rewarding careers available in the nuclear sectors. The virtual field trip is just one of the ways ANS is educating young people on how nuclear science and technology contribute to the quality of our everyday lives.”
The Nuclear Reimagined Virtual Field Trip offers a behind-the-scenes view into INL, DOE’s leading lab for nuclear energy research, development, demonstration and deployment. As part of the tour, participants learn the ways STEM professionals innovate solutions for the problems of today. The video is hosted by two young interviewers, “Morgan” and “Namir,” who interview four INL subject matter experts:
- Mark Hill, an engineer who explains the design and workings of the Advanced Test Reactor
- Russel Lewis, who demonstrates glass blowing and precision instrumentation
- Steve Johnson, who explains INL’s role in making radioisotope thermoelectric generators for NASA missions to Mars and deep space
- Heather Chichester, who explains post-irradiation examinations conducted at MFC
“The American Nuclear Society and Discovery Education Nuclear Reimagined Virtual Field Trip presents a perfect way for students to meet professionals leading engaging and diverse careers by providing a front row seat to the exciting possibilities and real-world uses of nuclear science,” said Lori McFarling, president of Corporate Education Partnerships at Discovery Education.
ANS and Discovery Education first launched Navigating Nuclear with a middle school curriculum including lessons, career profiles, STEM project starters, and a virtual field trip to Palo Verde Generating Station in Arizona. Since then, more than 612,000 students have engaged with the curriculum and the website has had more than 88,000 page views, with more than 6,800 views of the virtual field trip.
ANS has put together a Navigating Nuclear guidebook for the nuclear industry to use as an outreach tool. It includes ideas for contacting teachers, engaging students, and planning professional development activities for teachers. The curriculum resources created for Navigating Nuclear have been reviewed by a national panel of independent educators. The panel has validated that all standards-aligned middle school resources contained within the program examine multiple perspectives of the ways nuclear energy powers our world, also serving to build scientific literacy around nuclear processes and the vast impact they have on energy, healthcare, agriculture and the global community.