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Mike Franklin, a field radiological engineer with UCOR, shows students how to use instrumentation to survey and detect radiation at the STEM event at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge.
Mike Franklin, a field radiological engineer with UCOR, shows students how to use instrumentation to survey and detect radiation at the STEM event at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.Oak Ridge’s EM program and two of its contractors, UCOR and Isotek, recently supported a local middle school’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) night, which attracted 700 students and their families.

The event at Jefferson Middle School offered participants a unique opportunity to learn about the wide variety of careers in STEM fields required to perform EM projects while getting hands-on demonstrations with special equipment. It was the second-annual STEM night.

With numerous local community partners pitching in at the event, attendees did everything from race carbon dioxide-powered cars, fly drones, compete with robots, print using 3-D technology, and separate isotopes of chemical elements.

“The best part about all of this is seeing families come together and experience STEM as a family,” Jefferson Middle School STEM Coach Callie Painter said.

Isotek’s interactive booth allowed participants to learn how one of the company’s current EM projects is separating isotopes and creating material for next-generation cancer research and treatment.

“The hands-on activity made it very interesting. I didn’t realize how complex nuclear can be, so it made me want to get more involved,” said Olivia, an eighth-grader attending the event who expressed interest in becoming a pediatrician. “This is really cool how it helps people with cancer in a different way.”

James Nunz, project management branch chief for Oak Ridge’s EM program, teaches students how to use a glovebox during a demonstration at the STEM event.
James Nunz, project management branch chief for Oak Ridge’s EM program, teaches students how to use a glovebox during a demonstration at the STEM event.
Joe Biggerstaff, a radiological protection integration and technical manager with UCOR, provides information about the sources of radiation to an attendee at the STEM event.
Joe Biggerstaff, a radiological protection integration and technical manager with UCOR, provides information about the sources of radiation to an attendee at the STEM event.

Volunteers from EM and UCOR hosted a “Radiation in Perspective” learning session, where students learned about naturally occurring radiation, different sources of radiation, and how workers are protected against radiation when they conduct major environmental cleanup projects. The students also wore personal protective equipment, performed activities in a glovebox, and used equipment to survey pretend radiation materials.

Among the volunteers were nuclear material control and accountability assistant managers, data managers, fire protection engineers, mechanical engineers, maintenance coordinators, radiological protection integration managers, field radiological protection managers, field radiological engineers, and environmental scientists.

UCOR is EM’s Oak Ridge cleanup contractor, and Isotek supports EM’s highest priority project at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory: to eliminate the nation’s uranium-233 inventory.

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