Last autumn, 24 secondary school teachers attended a dedicated workshop offered by Instituto de Plasmas e Fusão Nuclear (IPFN), which belongs to the Portuguese EFDA Associate IST. The group was introduced to plasma physics, technological applications of plasmas, nuclear fusion, and engineering technologies for nuclear fusion. Part of the programme was also a visit to the Portuguese tokamak ISTTOK, and a subsequent visit to Culham to see JET, in which thirteen of the teachers took part. Their schedule there included meetings with JET Engineer In Charge, Nick Balshaw, and EFDA Senior Advisor Duarte Borba. The knowledge gained in the workshop was vital for keeping up with the students, said Maria Helena Azevedo from Ancorensis, Cooperativa de Ensino in Vila Praia de Âncora. “They read a lot on the internet and ask difficult questions!”

There is a feeling amongst some high school physics and chemistry teachers that their education in recent decades does not keep them abreast of scientific developments. They often lack resources or practical applications. This workshop sought to address ways to overcome these problems, by offering proper documentation, teaching tools for the applications of key concepts, discussion of some ideas for experimental application at schools and a good grounding in the basic principles of fusion machines. The Portuguese teachers were delighted with the opportunity to tour the JET site and expressed a lot of curiosity in the technologies developed there.

IPFN is strongly committed to having an active role in the communication of science, and disseminating information about its scientific and technological achievements throughout society. The workshop was the second event of this kind and was sponsored by the outreach programme “Ciência Viva” of the Portuguese Ministry for Science and Technology and TAP Air Portugal. Building on the success of this second workshop, IPFN envisages continuing this approach in the future. This will not only provide training to a wide range of teachers, but will also raise awareness of the level of expertise in nuclear fusion in Portugal.

Bruno Gonçalves, Carmo Nunes, IST