BY ROB ANDERSEN
Ron Aiello, a nuclear engineer and Youngsville High School alumnus, returned to his alma mater last Thursday and Friday to teach Laura Dorunda's classes about nuclear power and radiation.
Times Observer photo by Rob Andersen
Ron Aiello pretends to spill dog poop on a student’s back as other students look on in horror. Laura Dorunda, teacher for the classes Aiello gave his presentation to, helps clean up the fake mess. He kept the students’ rapt attention by involving them with projects.
Aiello is a former nuclear engineer with the U.S. Navy, a former senior inspector for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and currently is CEO and president of Aiello Nuclear Engineering. The company conducts mock inspections of nuclear facilities and reactors to insure compliance with the federal laws and regulations of the industry.
During the classes, he discussed the different types of radiation and their relative dangers.
"There are four different kinds of radiation alpha and beta particles, gamma rays and neutron," he said.
Aiello explained that although the alpha particles were the least penetrating and could be washed off of skin with no damage, if they are inhaled or ingested, they become the most dangerous and lethal.
He made his presentation with humor, keeping the students engaged.
Aiello said he thought of the protons in beta particles as boys, and the neutrons as girls. "The protons are stable, and the neutrons, not stable at all," he said, bringing laughter to the class.
When he explained the difference between radiation and contamination, as a prop he carried a bowl with fake dog excrement, and 'accidentally' dropped it onto a student's back. Once it was on her back, it represented contamination.
Once that was cleared up, he had her come to the front of the classroom to demonstrate a Geiger counter, a device designed to measure radiation.
As it clicked slowly with background radiation, he brought in several samples for her to check.
Some samples he brought to the classes included old-style Coleman lantern mantles that were manufactured with thorium and an old red Fiestaware plate. That particular style was contaminated by uranium 235 in the coloring.
Aiello said afterward, that he is considering expanding his teaching program to a full week at Youngsville next year.