Smithsonian Associates Study Tour visits Y-12

Posted: November 2, 2015 - 6:06pm
The Smithsonian Associates Study Tour visited the Y-12 History Center.

This year marks the second year that the Smithsonian Institute has featured an Oak Ridge tour for its annual Associates Study Tour. Forty-three teachers and two tour leaders travelled from Washington, D.C., to Oak Ridge for the three-day workshop packed with history and filled with new technological advances such as additive manufacturing, neutron science and computational science.

According to its website, the Smithsonian Associates offers unparalleled access to the Smithsonian's world of knowledge through innovative and engaging programming that promotes learning, enrichment and creativity for people of all ages. The largest museum-based educational program in the world, the Smithsonian Associates annually offer regional study tours.

The group began their visit to Oak Ridge at the American Museum of Science and Energy. After seeing the orientation video and exploring the museum's Oak Ridge Room and other exhibits, they stopped at the Y‑12 History Center in the New Hope Center.

Their visit to Y‑12 included a stop in Building 9201‑3 (Alpha 3), giving them the experience of seeing inside an original Manhattan Project facility at Y‑12.

"Attendees had many questions, and we had a discussion about Y‑12's history-making contribution of the uranium 235 for Little Boy through the use of 14,700 tons of silver used for electrical conductors and the 1152 calutrons used to separate the uranium 235," Ray Smith, Y‑12 historian, said. "It was more understandable when they saw the metal plates in the floor where the gigantic alpha calutrons had once stood about 20 feet tall and filled the majority of the high bay.

The group also got to visit the MARK 15 thermonuclear weapon display and view many Ed Westcott images. Participants visited Chestnut Ridge for a bird's eye view of Y‑12.
"Of course, the Y‑12 History Center was available for walk through tours," Smith said.

The tour concluded with a look at the Graphite Reactor, a stop at the East Tennessee Technology Park to view the enormous 44-acre footprint of the K‑25 Gaseous Diffusion Building and a tour of the city of Oak Ridge. The city tour included a look at the alphabet houses, the Jackson Square area, the Alexander Guest House and the Chapel on the Hill as well as more modern aspects of Oak Ridge at the Secret City Commemorative Walk. The day wrapped up at the Museum of Appalachia.

"We are always excited to have these teachers visit us each year to give them insight into Y‑12's history and current missions," Smith said. "It's a pleasure to get to know such a highly regarded group."