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Educ. Sci. 2019, 9(1), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9010015

Training Future Engineers to Be Ghostbusters: Hunting for the Spectral Environmental Radioactivity

1
Department of Physics and Earth Sciences, University of Ferrara, Via Saragat 1, 44121 Ferrara, Italy
2
INFN, Legnaro National Laboratories, Viale dell’Università, 2, 35020 Legnaro, Padua, Italy
3
INFN, Ferrara Section, Via Saragat 1, 44121 Ferrara, Italy
4
Nuclear Engineering Teaching Lab, University of Texas, Pickle Research Campus R-9000, Austin, TX 78712, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 12 November 2018 / Revised: 10 January 2019 / Accepted: 11 January 2019 / Published: 15 January 2019
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Abstract

Although environmental radioactivity is all around us, the collective public imagination often associates a negative feeling to this natural phenomenon. To increase the familiarity with this phenomenon we have designed, implemented, and tested an interdisciplinary educational activity for pre-collegiate students in which nuclear engineering and computer science are ancillary to the comprehension of basic physics concepts. Teaching and training experiences are performed by using a 4” × 4” NaI(Tl) detector for in-situ and laboratory γ-ray spectroscopy measurements. Students are asked to directly assemble the experimental setup and to manage the data-taking with a dedicated Android app, which exploits a client-server system that is based on the Bluetooth communication protocol. The acquired γ-ray spectra and the experimental results are analyzed using a multiple-platform software environment and they are finally shared on an open access Web-GIS service. These all-round activities combining theoretical background, hands-on setup operations, data analysis, and critical synthesis of the results were demonstrated to be effective in increasing students’ awareness in quantitatively investigating environmental radioactivity. Supporting information to the basic physics concepts provided in this article can be found at http://www.fe.infn.it/radioactivity/educational. View Full-Text
Keywords: physics education; laboratory activity; environmental radioactivity; nuclear engineering experiment; Web-GIS platform; scintillator detector; Android app; in-situ measurements; computer science application; γ-ray spectroscopy physics education; laboratory activity; environmental radioactivity; nuclear engineering experiment; Web-GIS platform; scintillator detector; Android app; in-situ measurements; computer science application; γ-ray spectroscopy
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Albéri, M.; Baldoncini, M.; Bottardi, C.; Chiarelli, E.; Landsberger, S.; Raptis, K.G.C.; Serafini, A.; Strati, V.; Mantovani, F. Training Future Engineers to Be Ghostbusters: Hunting for the Spectral Environmental Radioactivity. Educ. Sci. 2019, 9, 15.

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