Nuclear Energy Stars on Big Screen

Eating a banana exposes you to as much radiation as working in a nuclear power plant for a year. This and other myth-busting facts appeared during the popular UT Texas Atomic Film Fest.

poster for Atomic Film Fest

The Texas Atomic Film Fest is the culmination of a Cockrell School nuclear engineering class project. Students became film directors when Dr. Steven Biegalski, a mechanical engineering professor, teamed with Juan Garcia of the Cockrell School of Engineering Faculty Innovation Center, who supplied cameras, computers, consultation and video editing software. The film festival was hosted at the Texas Advanced Computing Center Visualization Lab on the UT campus.

“In our digital age, I saw the increased need for engineers to convey technical content through digital media,” said Biegalski. 

His students reflected the same commitment in their course evaluations. 

“It’s important to learn techniques besides written papers to communicate technical ideas to the community,” said one student in the class.  “If we as engineers don’t keep up with the current media, all of the important work we do will be lost to the public.”

The assignment required producing a 3-to-5 minute short film shown to the class and evaluated by a panel of judges.  Film titles such as “Nuclear Jeopardy”, “The Reactor Factor”, and “Not Quite 60 Minutes” hint of the clever treatment the students gave their sensitive topic.  The medium lent itself to making light of the heavy subject, and motivated many of the first-time filmmakers to process and simplify their new knowledge in terms and venues engaging to broad audiences.

Despite the new challenge, many participants echoed this student’s honest musing in their course evaluations: “I think I put more effort into something like this, and I enjoyed watching the other students’ videos. It was a very beneficial way of learning.”

Atomic Film Festival promo still frame

Go to the Cockrell School You Tube Channel and select films from the Atomic Film Festival 2010 playlist in the right hand column.