Session S63a (Wednesday, 9:30am, Wartik 107)

P693: Inquiry into nuclear decay

Matthew LeaTrea (Montague High School, USA)

Nuclear chemistry is a topic rarely covered in high school chemistry classes, yet in today’s society it is a topic of interest to many students. Furthermore, given the increased concerns regarding nuclear processes, it is arguably an important topic with respect to generating a populace able to make informed decisions about such issues. This activity uses a combination of lab stations, online simulations, and demonstrations to help high school students gain an understanding of nuclear decay. By experimenting with safe exposure levels of sealed sources to determine the effects of shielding and distance on radioactive exposure and observing decay particles in a cloud chamber to experimentally determine the half-life of an isotope, students gain valuable experience with radioactive decay. They then use computer simulations to better understand alpha decay, beta decay, and nuclear fission. A description of each lab station, suggestions for facilitation, and sample student outcomes will be presented.


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