On April 25, Brookhaven National Lab hosted dozens of very important visitors. Children of employees from departments all over the Lab came to Brookhaven to experience a day in the life at a National Lab.
Started in 1993, National Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day gives parents an opportunity to share their workplace with their children and helps youth understand how a workplace functions and explore future possibilities for careers. More than just a program where kids 'shadow' their parents, the national movement aims to expose young boys and girls to mentors and show them the value of an education that can help them move toward their goals as young adults.
The scheduled activities at Brookhaven gave the kids a chance to tour the Lab grounds and do some hands-on science. Morning activities at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) had the girls and boys learning about polymers and viscoelasticity. Sound like a bit of dry lesson? Not in the hands of enthusiastic materials scientist Karen Chen, who organized volunteers to lead the groups of children in making their own slime. As an added bonus, they learned about fluorescence by adding glow-in-the-dark paint to their slime and watching it shine in the dark.
Another experiment explained the nature of colloids (suspended gold and silver nanoparticles in a liquid solution) and the ways they diffract light – a mini-version of the type of research going on at Brookhaven's own light source. The kids also visited physicist Vivian Stojanoff's X6 beamline where they explored the properties of crystals of salt and sugar under microscopes and discussed the work at the beamline to study protein crystals.
During these activities, another special visitor was on hand to hang out with the kids. Flat Stanley, a popular character from a children's book series, made an appearance during the experiments. Schools around the world participate in the Flat Stanley project, which allows students to make their own paper figure to send to interesting places all over the world. To prepare for his visit to the Lab, Flat Stanley was outfitted with a hardhat, goggles and safety shoes so he could safely explore all of Brookhaven's facilities.
The morning ended with a science-infused treat: liquid nitrogen ice cream. Science can be lots of fun and the kids' eyes lit up when they got to try this tasty proof.
After lunch, the girls and boys visited Brookhaven's Fire Station, enjoyed a presentation on science and the environment with a focus on the rainforest, and then spent the afternoon learning about physics.
The Office of Educational Programs and the Long Island Matrix of Science and Technology, through their Portal to Discovery partnership, organized activities to introduce students to particle physics and collisions that occur at Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). The kids viewed vapor trails of cosmic rays inside cloud chambers, and played the Quark Matter card game, developed by RHIC physicist Tamas Csorgo and students Judit Csorgo and Csaba Torok.
The programs throughout the day would not have been possible without the help of these volunteers and educators:
Liz Gilbert, BNL's Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day Coordinator, would like to express a special thank you for the contributions of the following staff: