Nuclear Science Museum hopes to pique kid's interest up close and atomic

Reply Tue 24 Jan, 2012 11:15 am
You may want to look for Atomic museums in your area. BBB

Up Close and Atomic
By Hailey Heinz , Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Jan 24, 2012

They don’t remember when the United States dropped the atomic bomb, or even the fears and tensions of the Cold War. But this spring, school-age kids will be the special focus at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.

This week is National Nuclear Science Week, and the museum is celebrating with activities every day for school groups and families. Students can use Geiger counters to measure radiation, and do other hands-on activities related to nuclear science.

The museum is all booked for school field trips, but families can take advantage of the exhibit for the rest of the week. And classrooms can tune in on Wednesday and watch nuclear science presentations that will be webcast live from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The webcast will be moderated by Jim Walther, the director of Albuquerque’s nuclear museum, and will include presentations on green power, nuclear medicine and other topics presented by experts. The presenters also will take questions from students and answer them in real time.

Tech City exhibit

Kicking off Feb. 4, the museum will host “Tech City,” an interactive, traveling exhibit that aims to get students excited about engineering. It includes about 20 interactive stations, and at 3,000 square feet, it spills out of the museum’s usual rotating exhibit space.

Walther said the exhibit gives students opportunities to mimic real-world engineering tasks.

“They can build things and test it. Like they can build a house, put in on a table that shakes it, and see how it holds up in an earthquake,” Walther said.

The exhibit, which is aimed at students ages 8-13 and will run through the end of April, was initially designed at Cornell University. The museum’s goal is for about 10,000 students to see the exhibit while it is here, and there are still opportunities for teachers to sign up for field trips. Families also can visit the exhibit on weekends and evenings.

The museum can help supplement classroom science lessons, said Malva Knoll, director of education.

“We have equipment, exhibits and artifacts that can’t be found in a classroom,” Knoll said. She added that the museum can help students see science as a real-world career path instead of an abstract academic subject.


While the Tech City exhibit is going on, the museum will host a one-day event called “Zoom into Engineering and Science.” The annual event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 11, will feature presentations by engineers from a variety of fields with interactive activities for students. Crowd-pleasing exhibits include making liquid nitrogen ice cream and flying remote-control airplanes. Students can also chat with scientists in different fields about their career paths, which is required for scouting troops to earn certain kinds of badges.

One troop that visited last week got a lesson in Bernoulli effects and other basics of air pressure. The boys said they enjoyed getting the hands-on experience outside the classroom.

“I like how you get to learn new stuff, and then they explain why it works how it does,” said scout Noah Chavez, 9. He said he also liked touring the museum and learning nuclear history. “I like all the history about the bombs and stuff.”
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