On January 22, 2014 the Department of Physics at Duke University and the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory (TUNL) hosted a visit by a group of students, teachers and parents from the Hawbridge Charter School. Hawbridge Charter School is a rural charter school located in Saxapahaw, NC. The school comprises almost 200 middle and high school students who work in small classes with a dedicated faculty of about twenty teachers. Located adjacent to the Haw River makes the school ideally placed for the environmental theme that runs strongly through the school culture. Hawbridge also prides itself on interdisciplinary units that provide opportunities for students and teachers to apply these and projects to their core curricula. In addition to the interdisciplinary units, there is a strong outdoor program that provides the students with opportunities to learn about themselves, develop leadership skills, understand nature and experience the beautiful outdoors.
The planning of this trip started in the fall of 2013 when Hawbridge physics teacher Shanee Cowland contacted Profs. Art Champagne (UNC-CH), Tom Clegg (UNC-CH) and Haiyan Gao (Duke). Duke staff Cristin Paul coordinated the visit. Students were so excited about this visit that they arrived on January 22 as planned despite the fact that their school was closed on that day due to the inclement weather. Prof. Haiyan Gao, Chair of Physics, welcomed the students. The Hawbridge students visited the Tandem Lab in TUNL first with the tour guided by Prof. Tom Clegg, and then the Free Electron Laser Laboratory under the guidance of Mr. Pat Wallace. The last laboratory the students visited was the Low-Energy Nuclear Astrophysics (LENA) lab guided by Prof. Art Champagne. The entire visited was concluded by a warm pizza lunch, which was highly appreciated and enjoyed by the visitors on such a cold day.
The students who visited thought it was a cool visit and several shared about their experience. Nathan Forbis’ favorite was the tandem lab: "There I learned how a radioactive isotope called Carbon 11 can be injected into a plant (which absorbs the Carbon 11 through photosynthesis) so that the scientists there can study the nature of a plant’s metabolism and how the environment affects it.’’ Alex Preston was fascinated by the magnets: "One of the most interesting things to me was how important magnets were in this process. It was actually quite fascinating how the magnet guided the beam so precisely. I was also very surprised by the chemistry aspect before the particles were accelerated, the whole process of removing ions and making the elements positive or negative.’’