On Friday, December 11, the Atomic Heritage Foundation welcomed six students from Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church, VA, as they worked on their projects for the National History Day competition. The theme of this year's contest is "Innovation in History: Impact and Change." The students selected topics within the Manhattan Project and will be presenting their research as a paper, exhibit, performance, documentary or website this spring.
Manhattan Project veteran Norman Brown spoke to the visiting students. Brown briefly worked on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, TN, before transferring to Los Alamos, NM. He discussed his experiences in the "Secret Cities" and the science behind the bomb. Brown showed the students a model of the bomb core as well as a sample of Trinitite, the product of sand melted by the atomic bomb test at the Trinity site, encased in Plexiglas. He passed around a copy of the Smyth Report, a surprisingly forthcoming account of the development of the atomic bomb published in August 1945, just after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Students asked Brown about scientists' attitudes toward the bomb after it was used.
The National History Day contest is open to elementary and secondary school students. It was founded in 1974 by Dr. David Van Tassel and was recognized as an "exemplary program" by the 1997 President's Committee on Arts and Humanities. More information on the contest can be found here.