In the Classroom

« View all For Teachers resources

ReActions – May 2015

May 21, 2015 Volume 33
Featured Highlight

Plasma Demonstration

In this video, produced by the ANS University of Illinois – Urbana Student Section,  undergraduate Steven Stemmley (sophomore) is demonstrating two of their teaching plasma chambers.

Latest News

Since secondary teachers generally do not have access to the equipment needed to produce plasma in their classrooms, you may opt to show the above video to your students. Traditionally, everyone learns that there are three states of matter: solids, liquids, and gases.  But it is the fourth state of matter, plasma, that is most ubiquitous in this universe. Fire is a plasma, the sun is a plasma. We use plasmas in everything from making computer chips to touch screens, to lighting our homes.

In this plasma demonstration video, the first demo is a direct current (DC) glow chamber running with an arc discharge. Like Steven mentions, argon is being flowed into the chamber, and a large voltage between the cathode (located on the left) and the anode (located on the right) causes the gas to break down in the middle.  At high enough pressure, the discharge column collapses to form an arc (the pink plasma filament). Electrons are flowing from left to right and positive argon ions are flowing in the opposite direction. Recombination of these two leads to the light emitted.

As a charged, moving species, plasmas are affected by both electric and magnetic fields, as Steven demonstrates with the magnet. The use of magnets to confine plasmas is used in many different applications. Nuclear fusion is one of these applications. Strong magnets are used to confine the plasma typically in a toroidal configuration to confine the plasma long enough for it to fuse.

The second chamber that Steven demonstrates is a radio frequency (RF) chamber.  A source puts a RF voltage on the antenna which then couples energy inductively into the plasma. When a volunteer puts their hand on top of the chamber, they are providing an alternate route to ground for the plasma, and so a plasma filament reaches up to the top of the chamber.

As the public hears more about nuclear security through fictionalized movies and TV shows, news reports and social media, it becomes more important to educate students on the facts. To start a conversation about nuclear security in your classroom here is a brief background on the topic.

There are a number of perspectives on what constitutes the field of nuclear security.  The narrow view is that it is predominantly concerned with physical security of nuclear materials—with a “guns, guards, and gates” model.

A much broader view of the activities that fall under “nuclear security” encompasses all the activities that support the following objectives:

  • Nuclear or radiological materials or devices are not diverted to illicit or malicious purposes.
  • Potential threat materials are secured or replaced where feasible, so as to reduce the opportunities for malicious use.
  • Nuclear weapons and related technology are appropriately controlled and monitored.
  • The proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear/radiological threats is discouraged, detected, and/or dissuaded.
  • Systems that support peaceful uses of nuclear energy are increasingly proliferation resistant.
  • Efforts to acquire nuclear/radiological threats by malefactors are anticipated, stopped, investigated, and effectively countered.
  • Consequences of radiological or nuclear incidents, including attacks, are mitigated or minimized through prior planning and engineering, as well as effective response, emergency management, and remediation.

According to the Institute for Nuclear Security, this broader interpretation of nuclear security is critically necessary to nurture the interdisciplinary approach needed for an effective and sustainable nuclear security framework, both domestically and around the world.

To learn more about nuclear security please visit:

ANS student member Vivek Maradia has designed an app called NucSec that is a nuclear security-related educational game with the theme of “Nuclear Security Wings: Earn, Explore and Expert.”  This app can be incorporated into a classroom presentation on the topic of nuclear security. It is available for free on Google Play and features a quiz, word search, crossword, and definitions that will make learning about nuclear security fun for your students.

Have you attended one of our teacher workshops and implemented nuclear into your curriculum? If so, your lesson plans may help you win cash and prizes for your school from the National Science Foundation’s Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training (RCNET).

Write a unique, two-page lesson plan that incorporates 3-D printing technology while explaining the impact it can offer the nuclear industry. The plan outline should explain objectives, pre- and post-tests and/or questions, and lessons learned, all of which should fill approximately two hours of classroom time. You can include ideas for videos, demonstrations, projects or any other impactful way that teaches nuclear understanding to students and the impact 3-D printing technology can have in the nuclear industry.

This challenge is not exclusive to the nuclear energy field. You are encouraged to explore any nuclear career field.

To submit, complete the form below and upload your submission. Submissions are due June 15, 2015.

Alexander Crilley, a junior at Seneca Valley High School in Pennsylvania, received an assignment from his Honors American English teacher, Kristin Vogan, to write about a topic for which he had a strong opinion.  The assignment consisted of writing a letter and giving a presentation to the class. Much to the surprise of the outreach staff at the American Nuclear Society (ANS), the letter was mailed to ANS.

Just another day of opening mail from the general public turned the ANS office staff into detectives.  As we read the letter of support for nuclear, we naturally wanted to know the motivation behind it. With no phone number or email address included, Google was our best friend.

After tracking down the teacher and Alex’s parents, we are able to share his inspiring letter with you.  As you read his letter, we hope it inspires you to partner with teachers outside of the science department to educate their students on the importance of nuclear.

In case you are wondering, Alex received an “A” on the assignment!

Science Teachers’ Workshop in Nuclear Science and Technology

The ANS Eastern Carolinas Section will host a two-day science teacher workshop on June 22 and 23, 2015. Each day runs from 8:30 am – 4:30 p.m. and teachers will earn 1.0 CEUs. Classroom resources, giveaways, and lunch/refreshments will be provided.

The Science of Nuclear Energy and Radiation: July 20 – 24

The Virginia Local Section of the American Nuclear Society (VA-ANS) invites science teachers to attend “The Science of Nuclear Energy & Radiation” annual workshop. This four-day workshop, hosted by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering, features tours of the Surry Nuclear Power Station and VCU’s Nuclear Medicine Facilities. There are also laboratories and hands-on activities.

Nuclear Science Week October 19-23 Start Planning Early

There are many ways you can get involved and personally make a difference. Whether you organize an outreach event in your community, engage your students into the classroom or become a sponsor, you can be an advocate for NSW!

For Educators

    Sign Up for ReActions

    Sign up for ReActions™, the e-newsletter for educators that offers teaching ideas about nuclear science and technology. It is published by the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information, an initiative of the American Nuclear Society, between September and May.

    Sign Up

    Know Nuclear

  • Follow Us
  • Sign up for newsletters
  • Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information of the American Nuclear Society

    © Copyright 2016-2017