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CAMSE awarded $188,000 for radiation education

The Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education (CAMSE) at Black Hills State University has been awarded a grant of $188,000 for a three-year project to create course materials on radioactivity. Pictured is a radioactive atom emitting an alpha and a gamma particle in a computer simulation designed by Dr. Andy Johnson, associate director of CAMSE, to teach about the behavior of atoms and sources of radiation.

The Center for the Advancement of Math and Science Education (CAMSE) at Black Hills State University and Dr. Andy Johnson, associate director of CAMSE, have been awarded a grant of $188,000 for a three-year project to create course materials on radioactivity.

Dubbed "Radioactivity by Inquiry," the radioactivity course is designed for non-science students who otherwise would not learn about radioactivity, radiation, or nuclear power. According to Johnson, the course takes an inquiry approach to learning, so students will be able to understand the concepts better and retain them.

Johnson says most college students know very little about radiation. "It's a matter of scientific literacy," says Johnson. "For the first time in 30 years, new nuclear power plants are in the planning stages and new uranium mines are being permitted but the public knows almost nothing about the science."

Johnson notes that some of his students are fearful of radiation and others are pro-nuclear but neither group knows much about radiation. Johnson's goal is for students to understand what radiation is and how it behaves so they can make informed decisions.

Johnson will work with Dr. Michael Grams of the Sioux Falls University Center to develop and trial test the materials. Grant funds from the National Science Foundation will cover the costs of developing and field testing the materials, creating needed computer simulations, and informing other university professors about the materials. Johnson and CAMSE staff members will also work with scientists and educators at the Sanford Underground Lab at Homestake to ensure that the materials are of top quality. For more information please Johnson at Andy.Johnson@BHSU.edu or call 605-642-6508.

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