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Middle School Students Learn about Radiation and Radioactivity

February 24, 2020

On February 1, 2020, Dr. Nicole Martinez, Dr. Lindsay Shuller-Nickles, and graduate students Connor Parker and Kathryn Peruski worked together to engage 5th-8th graders as they learned about radiation and radioactivity during STEM Day. STEM Day is an outreach program led by PEER & WISE for underrepresented middle school students in Upstate SC. Wide-eyed students learned how everyday household items contained radioactive elements, expressed creativity in making “sun” prints using UV flashlights, graphed “radioactive” decay of licorice, and pushed past their point of ping-pong nuclear stability.

Students get a chance to detect radiation in household objects, like smoke detectors, that use radioactive sources to safely improve our lives.

Dr. Martinez helps a student develop a photo made by shining a UV light on photosensitive paper with crafts to leave an imprint, simulating the effects of the sun’s UV radiation.

How many neutrons can you hold? This station demonstrates nuclear stability with ping pong balls representing neutrons and protons: just a few is easy to hold, but your nucleus “decays” when there are too many neutrons in hand.