Argonne National Laboratory Field Trip
November 25, 2019
Teacher: Mr. Ness
What is Argonne National Laboratory?
"Argonne National Laboratory is a science and engineering research national laboratory operated by the University of Chicago Argonne LLC for the United States Department of Energy located in Lemont, Illinois, outside Chicago. It is the largest national laboratory by size and scope in the Midwest.
Argonne was initially formed to carry out Enrico Fermi's work on nuclear reactors as part of the Manhattan Project, and it was designated as the first national laboratory in the United States on July 1, 1946. In the post-war era the lab focused primarily on non-weapon related nuclear physics, designing and building the first power-producing nuclear reactors, helping design the reactors used by the US's nuclear navy, and a wide variety of similar projects. In 1994 the lab's nuclear mission ended, and today it maintains a broad portfolio in basic science research, energy storage and renewable energy, environmental sustainability, supercomputing, and national security." (Wikipedia: Argonne National Library. Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org., 12 Nov 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argonne_National_Laboratory)
Edison Students Design Batteries
The students participated in a learning lab Designing a Better Battery! In the learning lab, the students worked in teams and used sprints, just like Argonne scientists and engineers, to quickly design and test their own batteries!
The students were divided into two teams. Each team, with the guidance of an Argonne facilitator, developed a prototype battery that was used to power a toy car. Near the end of the visit, the teams came back together to share design approaches and engage in a friendly competition to see whose battery sent the toy car the farthest.
The students first learned the fundamental components of a battery (metals, membrane, and electrolyte) and how they come together to generate electricity. From there, they lead the research into how the design of a battery can be optimized in order to meet the voltage and current requirements of the car’s motor.
The students used a unique research strategy called a “sprint” where small groups of 3-4 students only had about 15 minutes to investigate a specific aspect of the battery’s design. They collected data, look for trends, and reported back to the team. The team reviewed the small group’s recommendations and, through scientific argumentation, came to a consensus about that aspect of the battery’s design. This process is repeated so that further refinements can be made.