UC–Irvine student section does STEM outreach for young women

June 12, 2024, 7:00AMANS News
A student observes the ANS Visualizing Radiation Cloud Chamber at the PPPL Young Women’s Conference. (Photo: ANS Student Section/University of California–Irvine)

The American Nuclear Society Student Section at University of California–Irvine presented ANS STEM learning materials at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Young Women’s Conference in STEM. Members of the section were on hand at the May 17 conference, held at University of California–San Diego, with Geiger counters, an ANS Visualizing Radiation Cloud Chamber Kit, pellet cards, and more, courtesy of ANS STEM Programs.

The PPPL Young Women’s Conference in STEM introduces seventh-to-tenth-grade girls to careers in STEM through hands-on activities, small group presentations, a chemistry demonstration, and a keynote address. Girls spend the day learning about a huge variety of STEM careers and talking with prominent female scientists and engineers from around the world.

Made for classrooms: ANS Cloud Chamber Kits are free for any educator who requests one. Aimed at grades 5–12, the cloud chambers are designed to let people visualize radiation as an event, not just a concept. The chamber itself is a small box equipped with a radioactive source, pads soaked in rubbing alcohol, and dry ice. High-energy radioactive particles flow from the thorium mantle as it undergoes decay. Alcohol vapor condenses on the particles as they travel through the chamber. Students can observe the trail the particles leave, not the actual particles, much the same way jet exhaust creates contrails in the sky.

Great participation: “We had a great time sharing our love for nuclear science and technology with the next generation,” said UC–Irvine student section president Jessica Granger-Jones. “There were so many interested and curious young women, eager to learn more about radiation and the many applications of nuclear science. After detecting radiation with the Geiger counters, the cloud chamber was a huge hit with many animated exclamations when they were able to see the path of radiation.”

Granger-Jones said that out of 270 participants registered for the conference, about half came by the booth to learn about nuclear science.

About the Student Section: The UC–Irvine student section has 25 members and holds regular meetings once or twice a month, usually with a guest speaker giving a career talk or a chapter member giving a seminar on a topic in nuclear science and technology.

Granger-Jones added, “We are also very involved in volunteering to host tours of the UC–Irvine TRIGA reactor. We usually have tours on a weekly/biweekly basis and hosted about 1,000 visitors this past calendar year. In addition to tours for companies and university student and faculty groups, we are actively involved in tours for larger outreach events catered to underrepresented communities, for example Reach Out Teach Out, which brings students from Title I high schools to our university campus for lab tours and professional development activities.”