Navigating Nuclear takes high school students on virtual field trip to INL

March 11, 2020, 11:40AMANS News

When Navigating Nuclear’s latest virtual field trip (VFT) debuted online in February during Engineers Week, students in classrooms around the country learned about nuclear advancements happening right now at Idaho National Laboratory, on technologies including advanced reactors, TRISO fuel, and space power systems. The video, titled “Nuclear Reimagined,” highlights diverse applications of nuclear technology and career opportunities in the nuclear sector and puts a spotlight on the work of ANS members Heather Chichester, Paul Demkowicz, and Stephen Johnson at INL.

In this still from the virtual field trip, Discovery Education’s on-air hosts introduce themselves and Idaho National Laboratory before heading to sites including the Advanced Test Reactor, the Materials and Fuels Complex, and the Space and Security Power Systems Facility.

Some high school students were treated to special launch-date showings of the VFT described below. You can watch the video now at and share it with teachers and students in your community. Teachers are encouraged to download and use the accompanying educator guide.

Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World was created by ANS and Discovery Education and launched in 2018 with learning materials for middle school students and teachers. The Department of Energy joined the collaboration in 2019, providing funds to enable the addition of high school resources to the curriculum in October 2019. All materials are available free to the public at


Melinda Higgins introduced the virtual field trip to a group of high schoolers in Nashville, Tenn. Photo: CNI Global Solutions/Rahlana Smith

Melinda Higgins introduced the virtual field trip to more than 90 high school students at the Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tenn. Higgins, who is serving the DOE as a Nuclear Energy Tribal STEM Advisor from CNI Global Solutions, is an experienced educator who has worked closely with ANS staff and volunteers to shape the curricular content of Navigating Nuclear. She formerly taught at Harpeth Hall.

“It was so exciting to come back to Harpeth Hall, after teaching here for 22 years, and be with the students as they learned about the incredible science and technology that takes place at our premier lab, Idaho National Laboratory,” Higgins said. “I always ask if students are aware of DOE or the Office of Nuclear Energy, and in this case INL. Only three students were familiar with the DOE, and none with INL, so by the end of the VFT we had a significant increase in awareness,” she added.

Idaho Falls

Students grabbed snacks as they headed to a showing of Nuclear Reimagined in Idaho Falls. Photo: INL/Chris Morgan

Ashley Finan, director of the National Reactor Innovation Center, spoke to students in Idaho Falls. Photo: INL/Chris Morgan

At Compass Academy in Idaho Falls, Idaho, students were treated to a viewing party complete with popcorn and theater-sized boxes of candy. They heard from ANS member Ashley Finan, director of the National Reactor Innovation Center at INL, as she joined Compass Academy staff and Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper to introduce the virtual field trip. Finan also took questions from assembled 9–12 graders.

“It was a pleasure and an honor to speak with these bright and motivated students about the future of energy,” Finan said. “They asked insightful questions and had some great ideas. It was clear that the virtual field trip helped to communicate both the depth and breadth of the work happening at INL and in nuclear energy, and piqued the interest of many in the crowd.”

Related Articles

Calming fears about low-dose radiation

March 8, 2021, 12:00PMANS News

During my time as vice president and president of ANS, I have been advocating for a new approach to implementing dose limits across the nuclear industry. A lack of understanding and an...

The value of “fluffy” stuff

December 16, 2020, 9:23AMANS News

You know the old saying that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach? Well, I say anyone thinking that way should be kept far away from students!In my time at Argonne National...