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ReActions – October 2016

Janice HeadshotHalloween is traditionally the season when scary monsters rear their heads, but there’s another time that can strike fear in the hearts of teachers: science fair season. Even if you love them, science fairs are huge undertakings. That’s why we’re offering a little assistance. We’ve got project ideas for students excited about nuclear science and a source for mentoring, guidance, and even judges—our ANS membership. And because the holidays are approaching, we have a little gift you can find on our website, So, fear not, have your best science fair ever, and let me know how it goes!

Janice Lindegard

October 24, 2016 Volume -38
Featured Highlight

Don't Fear the Science Fair

Ideas and inspiration for bringing nuclear science to the fair

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Parental over-involvement in science fair projects may not be the biggest difficulty organizers face. For many schools, finding mentors and judges often presents a greater dilemma. ANS and its members can provide a solution, whether a student needs expert advice or the judging committee needs another member.

The Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information offers an abundance of information to meet students’ background research needs. But ANS provides a more personal approach to research as well. Through the “Ask an Expert” link on, students can submit any question about nuclear science, and our outreach staff will find an appropriate member of ANS’s Speakers Bureau to respond. Our panel of more than 60 professionals and scientists has a broad range of expertise in nuclear science and technology. Speakers Bureau members have helped students from middle school through college to research and understand topics from how energy is priced to the impact of duration and repetition on effects of radiation exposure.

On the local level, if you find yourself scrambling for science fair judges, reach out to the ANS section in your area. Many ANS members enjoy engaging with their local communities; some frequently visit schools to talk with students about nuclear science and technology as well as careers in nuclear fields. While ANS members are obviously experts in nuclear science and technology, many have backgrounds in other sciences as well. When you’re looking for judges, an ANS local or student section in your area may be able to meet your needs.

For students with a passion for nuclear science, finding projects that fit their interests may seem daunting. Building a nuclear reactor, for instance, is out of the question. But, there are plenty of nuclear science and technology topics than make for engaging and challenging science fair fare. We’ve gathered just a few.

Growing irradiated bean seeds

Growing seeds that have been exposed to various radiation doses enables students to see the effects of radiation on living things. Students can use the knowledge they gain to hypothesize and research other uses of irradiation.

Transporting nuclear fuel

An engineering and physics challenge similar to the famous egg drop, this project involves protecting nuclear fuel rods (cookies) during transport. After researching fuel transport methods, students design their own method of protecting “fuel rod cookies” to withstand an impact. An air track can be used to simulate a collision, or students can build their own contraption to create a transport accident.

Fuels of the future

Students who enjoy research can put their minds to how nuclear power fits into a clean energy future. provides abundant information on nuclear power, how it is produced, its carbon footprint, and next-generation solutions being developed now. Students may also wish to interview one of the many ANS members at the forefront in developing new nuclear technologies. Contact us at to find a member who might enjoy guiding your students.

Is there anything teachers like more than a valuable teaching tool they get for free? We’ve got lots of brochures and teaching materials that you’re free to download as much and as often as you need on NuclearConnect. One of our most popular downloads is Radiation is a Part of Our World: Estimate Your Personal Annual Radiation Dose.

A tri-fold brochure, Radiation is a Part of Our World explains background radiation: the radiation that is around us all the time. In fact, Earth has always been radioactive, and the natural radioactivity in the environment today is about the same as it was more than 10,000 years ago. The brochure further explains some of the sources of the radiation in our environment, including elements in the earth and the sun we rely on. Of course, we also receive radiation exposure from man-made sources, such as when we get an X-ray or radiotherapy.

The radiation dose calculation worksheet inside the brochure makes it a useful tool in helping students understand the sources of radiation exposure in their lives. Many teachers include calculating personal annual radiation dose as part of their radiation lessons. Teachers may download as many copies of Radiation is a Part of Our World as they need. There is also an interactive radiation dose calculator on the ANS website, though the print version is handier for assignments to be turned in…and it requires the students to do a little math!

November 5, 2016 Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, NV

Join ANS for a full-day exploration of nuclear and radiation science. You’ll work alongside our nuclear professionals gaining knowledge and inspiration that will leave you ready to engage your students about learning nuclear science. Every participant receives the ANS Teacher Resource Guide full of interactive lessons aligned to NGSS standards as well as a FREE Geiger counter to take back to their classroom.

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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.

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