In one room, bananas became brittle and snapped in clean lines after being dipped in super-cold liquid nitrogen.
In another room, teachers pedaling on a stationary bicycle with a generator attached learned it takes much more energy to power an incandescent light than compact fluorescent or LED bulbs.
The teachers were at the Y-12 National Security Complex on Friday for “show and tell” laboratories, learning experiments from Y-12 engineers and scientists that they could take back to their classrooms. It was part of the Innovation Valley’s Educators in the Workplace Lunch and Learn summer program.
“We try to make science fun,” said Bridget Correll Waller, Y-12 community and government relations manager. “We hope that they can reach many generations of kids.”
She said Y-12 has been doing the annual hands-on science experiments with school teachers since Innovation Valley started about five years ago. Teachers who participated Friday came from Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Roane County, Roane State Community College, and Tennessee Technology Center, among other places. They teach a range of subjects from science and pre-engineering to math and social studies.
At Y-12, they learned basic scientific concepts of electricity, materials science, physics, and vacuums. After shattering a banana in one room, Y-12 scientist Daryl Smith used a balloon that shrank when dipped in liquid nitrogen to explain how pressure and volume both drop as the temperature does.
During their tour, the teachers also got a taste of some of the work conducted at Y-12, including the study of radio frequency identification technologies that can be used in clothes to help protect against shoplifting in stores and in medical devices to help identify them in X-rays.
The goal of the labs is to get students interested in science, Smith said. Students and teachers observe how things work and then try to explain what happened, Smith said. That’s the beginning of innovation, he said.