A Totally "Rad" Day

The Baltimore-Washington Chapter of the Health Physics Society Hosts a Nuclear Science Merit Badge Program at the University of Maryland

Matt Mille, Baltimore-Washington Chapter Past President

In celebration of National Nuclear Science Week, the Baltimore-Washington Chapter of the Health Physics Society hosted a nuclear science merit badge program at the University of Maryland, College Park on Saturday, 12 October 2019. The full-day program was attended by approximately 60 scouts, 15 parents, and 30 technical volunteers and was a unique opportunity to teach young people about radiation sciences and health physics. During the event, scouts and students rotated through stations to complete activities in pursuit of the Scouts BSA Nuclear Science Merit Badge. Activities included tours of the Maryland University Training Reactor (MUTR) and a cyclotron, building of cloud chambers to see radiation tracks, detecting radiation sources with survey meters, a virtual reality tour of the Chernobyl exclusion zone using Oculus Go VR glasses, a radiation fundamentals lecture, M&M candy half-life and mousetrap reactor demonstrations, a donut breakfast and pizza lunch, and more. At the end of the day, scouts received a variety of giveaways donated by several federal agencies and nonprofit groups including periodic tables, SI unit charts, rulers, science-themed pencils, radiological emergency preparedness fact sheets, health physics career brochures, atomic fireball and nuclear fusion candy, and more. Please enjoy this three-minute video slideshow of photos collected from the day.

This is the second year the Baltimore-Washington Chapter has hosted this event. This year, the event sold out within 10 days of registration opening and the waitlist grew to over 50 scouts, showing great interest from the community in learning about radiation sciences. Response from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Commenting on what they liked most, one participant replied the "level of expertise that surrounded us and their ability to explain things so that we could understand them" and touted this event as "by far the best merit badge day I have seen." Another parent exclaimed, "The number of subject matter experts available was phenomenal. Very supportive of my daughter who is not usually engaged in STEM, much appreciated that." Others were impressed by "how many scout leaders have jobs with nuclear energy. It was neat to see some of the teachers dressed in their scout uniforms." In sum, it was a totally "rad" day.

View the Mousetrap Reactor Video

View the Cloud Chamber Video


Thanks to All the Volunteers*

Program Director: Matthew Mille

University of Maryland Logistics: Amber Johnson, Luke Gilde, Kenneth Ecker

Classroom Lecture: Ray Johnson

M&M Half-Life and Mousetrap Reactor Demonstrations: Stan Fricke

Classroom Study Sections Leaders: Robert Buchheit, Bethany Cecere, Doug Fletcher, Matthew Mille, Stan Fricke, Jeff Gorman, Charles Harmon, Vassilios Tsiglifis, Korressa Williams, Yeon Soo Yeom

Cloud Chamber Experiment: Bill Beal, Bree Beal, Levon Dovlatyan, Jonathan Nagata

Survey Meter Experiment: Arden Dougan, Mike Tobin, Jonathan Nagata, Kathy McLellan

Nuclear Reactor Tour: Amber Johnson, Jeff Chapman, Luke Gilde, Mary Dorman

Cyclotron Tour: Tim Koeth, Michael Cook, Brian Champine

Oculus Go Virtual Reality Tour of Chernobyl Exclusion Zone: Matthew Mille and Audrey Stiebel. Virtual reality movie provided courtesy of Professor Mike Wood from the University of Salford in Manchester, UK

UV Light and Sun Safety: Cimo Chen

Registration and Food Services: Audrey Stiebel

Photography: Casper Sun, Tanesha Polk

*We apologize if your name was left off this list. All contributions were worthy of recognition.


Group photo of all the participants in the merit badge program. Photo courtesy of Casper Sun



Group photo of all the volunteers at the merit badge program. Photo courtesy of Casper Sun



Students peer into the Maryland University Training Reactor (MUTR). Photo courtesy of Luke Gilde



Ray Johnson gave a radiation fundamentals lecture focusing on radiation in our natural world. He showed the scouts how Vaseline glass glows under blacklight. Photo courtesy of Casper Sun



Students take a virtual reality tour of the Chernobyl exclusion zone using Oculus Go VR headsets. Virtual reality content was provided by Professor Mike Wood from the University of Salford, Manchester. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mille