The Manhattan Project & the atomic bomb:
chien-shiung wu 

This learning block represents one week’s work. Aim to watch at least one video and choose at least one activity or project to complete.

There are two videos to choose from about Chien-Shiung Wu. The first one is better for younger kids, the second one will appeal to older kids.  Feel free to watch one, or both!

Choose an activity

Build an Atomic Model

Part of Chien-Shiung Wu’s work included the study of ATOMS. Do you know what an atom is? Watch the video above to learn about the different parts of an atom: PROTONS, NEUTRONS, and ELECTRONS.

Next, watch the video below and make a model of an atom. The video will show you how to make two different models of an atom. You can make one or both!


You will need:
– 7 larger styrofoam balls
– 3 smaller styrofoam balls
– red, yellow, and blue tempera or acrylic paints (NOTE: Acrylic paint will stain!)
– paintbrush
– toothpicks


You will need:
– gumdrops
– toothpicks
– pipecleaners
– white paper

After you build your model(s), take a photo and add it to your portfolio!

Learn About The Manhattan Project

Chien-Shiung Wu joined many of the world’s top scientists in The Manhattan Project, an effort led by The United States government to develop a functional nuclear weapon. The project was successful in its mission, and as a result two atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, killing at least 185 000 people.

A number of the scientists involved in the project spoke out against the use of nuclear weapons and urged The United States government not to engage in nuclear warfare. Nevertheless, their scientific discoveries led to massive human suffering.

At the same time, the research done through The Manhattan Project has also led to enormous scientific gains and has contributed to the development of nuclear energy and medical advances (such as cancer treatments). Nothing in science is wasted, but the human cost of this project was undeniably horrific.

Your task is to choose ONE of the following questions and write a response. There are no ‘right’ answers; this is based on your opinion.

1. During World War 2, there was fear the Nazi Germany would develop nuclear weapons. This fear led The United States to urgently develop its own atomic bombs. Do you think countries should respond to possible threats by building up their own store of weapons? Why or why not?

2. Do you believe it was right for the scientists involved in The Manhattan Project to do their research, knowing that it could lead to a bomb that could kill many thousands of people? Are scientists responsible for all the possible ways their research could be used by others?

3.  Imagine you are Chien-Shiung Wu, preparing to join The Manhattan Project. Write a journal entry describing your feelings. Do you feel excitement, dread, fear, commitment, or something else? Write about the reasons behind your feelings.

Learn More About Wu’s Acievements and Her Experience as an Asian-American Woman Scientist

Chien-Shiung Wu faced obstacles in her career as a physicist. As a woman, she was not allowed to attend some universities. Later on, her colleagues received a Nobel Prize while her contributions were ignored. Despite this, she persevered and went on to win many awards. As you watch these videos, consider what character traits Wu needed to continue in her career despite being rejected and not receiving the recognition she deserved.


Books About Chien-Shiung Wu

Click on a book to buy it from Amazon. Or, you can ask for them at your local library. 

Queen of Physics Read Aloud

NOw Let’s Have some fun!