Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Global Energy Infrastructure: Teaching Students the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The following guest post comes from Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, senior manager of workforce policy and programs at NEI.

Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides
Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides
Supporting American students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers was the goal of this latest joint volunteer effort. Employees from the Nuclear Energy Institute and members of the DC Chapters of Women in Nuclear and North American Young Generation in Nuclear facilitated NAYGN's Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle game for 280 middle and high school students at the Technology Student Association's (TSA) annual conference.

“It was energizing to see the students and volunteers from the various organizations engaged in this thought provoking, interactive game with roots in the nuclear industry and STEM,” said Suzanne McKillop, a member of DC WIN.

Suzanne McKillop
Suzanne McKillop
TSA hosted 6,800 attendees at their 2014 national conference from June 27 through July 1 in Washington, D.C. TSA is the only student organization devoted exclusively to the needs of students engaged in STEM. Middle and high school attendees participated in 60 STEM competitions and multiple special interest sessions during this year's conference.

The Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle Infrastructure game was one of these special interest sessions. Terry Lowe-Edwards, Marketing Manager for TSA said, "The nuclear volunteers’ admirable participation in the recent conference provided everyone with a valuable experience and, certainly, one they will remember."

The Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle Infrastructure game is a role-play where 14 teams representing different nations compete for resources to complete a nuclear fuel cycle for their country. Student participants worked in teams of 10 to develop a strategy for their nation and collaborated with other teams to find the resources to complete their fuel cycle.

Muhammad Fahmy
Muhammad Fahmy
"It was great to see both high school and middle school students not only participating in the activity, but truly understanding and retaining the activity’s intended messages and lessons,” said Muhammad Fahmy, a Bechtel NAYGN member and co-creator of the game. “This was the first time we’ve attempted the activity with participants this young; surprisingly though, we found that the dynamic learning element from the game was just as successful with students as it has been with adults."

Designers of the game originally wanted to help non-nuclear engineering professionals from industry better understand the complexity of the nuclear fuel cycle and the utilities’ role within it, ultimately so they could better engage with the nonproliferation community. The uniqueness of the game made it popular and has been used by many U.S. nuclear organizations, as well as internationally in England and South Africa.

McKillop added, “This was my first time participating in the Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle Game and the knowledge of the game’s creators made this a truly engaging experience for the students and volunteers alike. The students were able to quickly comprehend the complex nuclear fuel cycle and then role-play as if they were diplomats and industry giants.”

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