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CORDIS - Risultati della ricerca dell’UE



Periodo di rendicontazione: 2022-05-01 al 2023-10-31

With the advent of cheap computing power, modelling and simulations represent an increasingly important part of a nuclear engineer’s work. These tools rely on sophisticated models, databases, and algorithms, which the engineer needs to understand, so that the tools are used most efficiently and in relevant applications. Although reactor physics has always been a core discipline in nuclear engineering, computational reactor physics is often taught via advanced courses with fewer students. Due to the decrease of student enrolment in nuclear engineering programs in Europe, maintaining those courses has become increasingly difficult.
As modelling and simulation represent one of the pillars of reactor design, operation and analysis, being able to provide specialized education in reactor physics, modelling, and safety is essential for guaranteeing the safe operation of the existing fleet of reactors and of the future ones.
The GRE@T-PIONEeR project thus aims at developing and providing specialised and advanced courses in computational and experimental reactor physics at the graduate level (MSc and PhD levels) and post-graduate level, as well as to the staff members working in the nuclear industry. Beyond the technical contents of the courses being developed, the novelty of the project lies with the use of innovative pedagogical methods aimed at promoting student learning. In order to maximise the time students spend with the teachers, flipped classes are offered. The self-paced learning elements rely on handbooks specifically written for the various courses, short videos summarising the key concepts, and online quizzes allowing one to test their understanding of those concepts. These elements need to be taken before attending interactive sessions organised under the close supervision of the teachers. The interactive sessions are based on active learning, during which the students have to implement and use the techniques they learned in hands-on training exercises designed to promote learning. The exercises are computer-based modelling assignments (either implementing algorithms and techniques from scratch or using already existing nuclear simulation tools) and hands-on training sessions on research reactors. In addition to the flipped classroom pedagogy, most of the interactive sessions are offered in a hybrid format: the students can decide to attend the interactive sessions either on-site or online. The sessions are also given in a condensed format. Combined with the hybrid set-up, the courses are very well suited for lifelong learning.
Concerning the development of teaching materials, the work focused on several lines of actions:
(a) the development of the various handbooks
(b) the development of the various video lectures
(c) the development of the asynchronous quizzes
(d) the development of the hands-on activities
(e) the development of the hands-on training exercises at the research facilities
All the above resources were developed.
In addition to the above, a sustainable approach was followed from a project implementation perspective, so that the alliance is ready to re-offer the courses on the long run and to add new courses in the future. This included:
(a) the development of procedures for developing the teaching resources
(b) the design of the LMS course areas and their maintenance
(c) the structuring of the delivery of those resources
(d) the development of a student assessment process, to that course certificates are only issued to students successfully completing a selected set of activities
(e) the development of procedures for evaluating the various courses and the different elements constituting those
(f) the modifications of the courses based on the received feedback
Ambitious advertising campaigns were also launched to recruit students to the courses. A set of high-quality advertising videos were recorded in a professional studio and used for advertising the courses, each time a course registration opened. Those technical videos aim at providing a sneak preview of the actual technical content of the courses. Course leaflets were also prepared to better advertise the courses. Social media channels (LinkedIn and Twitter) were extensively used to advertise the opening of the courses. The project consortium was also present at various meetings and international conferences
This resulted in the courses offered during the academic years 2022/2023 and 2023/2024. As of the writing of this report, 8 courses were offered in the academic year 2022/2023 and 2 courses in the academic year 2023/2024.
In terms of participations to the courses offered during the academic year 2022/2023, the following results were obtained:
- 386 applications were received.
- 322 applications were accepted.
- 331 students were actually enrolled in the LMS, out of which 242 qualified for participating to the synchronous sessions.
- The actual number of students who participated to the synchronous sessions (either onsite or by taking the first activity for the remote attendees) was 200.
- Out of those 200 students, 176 received a certificate of successful course completion, which represents a success rate of 88% (100% for the onsite participants and 85% for the remote attendees)
At the end of the project, seven thematic course modules related to reactor physics, modelling and safety will be developed and all given at least once. The different themes covered by the courses follow the various steps a nuclear engineer typically needs to consider when modelling a commercial power reactor, from the preparation of the nuclear cross-sections to full core calculations. More precisely, the following topics are covered:
• Nuclear cross-sections for neutron transport.
• Neutron transport at the fuel cell and assembly levels.
• Core modelling for core design.
• Core modelling for transients.
• Reactor transients, nuclear safety and uncertainty and sensitivity analysis.
• Radiation protection in nuclear environment.
Through the use of innovative pedagogical methods promoting a deeper learning, knowledge, skills and competences in those areas will be provided to persons requiring an advanced expertise. Thanks to blended learning, the teaching resources can be offered in a flexible manner, both time-wise (asynchronous elements for self-paced learning and condensed synchronous interactive sessions) and location-wise (onsite and remotely). The innovative set-up and flexibility will make it possible to attract a sufficient number of students per course module.
The entire development process of the teaching resources, procedures, implementation and improvement is considered on the long term, making it possible to offer the courses on a regular basis in the future and to add possible new themes and teaching partners.
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