Geneva, 6 June 2014. CERN1 today announced the winners of its first beam line for schools competition. Following almost 300 submissions from school groups around the world, two teams have been selected to come to CERN to carry out their own experiments at a CERN beam line. The winners are the “Odysseus' Comrades” team from Varvakios Pilot School in Athens, Greece and the “Dominicuscollege” team from Dominicus College in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
To coincide with CERN’s 60th anniversary this year, the laboratory launched the beam line for schools competition. The idea is to make a fully equipped beam line available for high-school students to run an experiment in the same way that the laboratory’s researchers do.
“When we first had the idea of offering a beam line to schools, I never expected such a fantastic range of proposals from around the world,” said Christoph Rembser, coordinator of the initiative, “I’ve been amazed by the creativity and motivation of the students who entered. Many students wrote that even if they didn’t win, they’d already had an amazing experience taking part and learning the physics to write their proposal. For many it was their first taste of real science.”
In proposals of fewer than 1000 words, teams had to explain why they wanted to come to CERN, what they hoped to take away from the experience and give initial thoughts on how they would use the particle beam for their experiment. They also had to summarize their written proposal in a creative and entertaining video.
When the competition closed at the end of March, 292 proposals had been submitted. Teams of CERN scientists then evaluated proposals based on creativity, motivation, feasibility and scientific method. After two rounds of evaluation, 16 teams2 were highly commended and put forward for final selection by an official CERN committee that assigns beam time to experiments. The committee decided to choose not one but two winning teams, both of which have been invited to CERN to carry out their experiments together.
Odysseus’ Comrades are a team of 12. Their proposal is to look at the decay of charged pions (particles containing a quark and an antiquark) to investigate the weak force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature.
"At first it was very hard to find an experiment to propose for the competition. But if there is an obstacle, it is always a good start to look at history. So we studied the history of CERN, and that lead us to the proposal of studying a peculiar property of weak force," said Andreas Valadakis, teacher of the Greek team.
Dominicuscollege are a team of five. Their proposal is to grow their own crystals to make a calorimeter, a device that measures the energy, and to test it with the beam at CERN.
"For the video, the team spent one day in a class room while I was not at school. In the evening they showed me the result: I was amazed!" said Rachel Crane, the Dutch teacher.
"In my experience, it's always amazing to see what happens when school students get involved with real research," said CERN’s Head of Communications James Gillies. “I can't wait to see what these two winning teams achieve.”
CERN scientists are now discussing the scientific and technical details with the two winning teams to prepare the setup of their experiments, which will be carried out in September.
Team “Odysseus' Comrades”:
- exctract from their proposal “A Nature’s Preference”: “Weak force keeps the Sun and the other stars glowing and gives life to life. Studying the history of particle physics we found out that weak force was the motive power for major discoveries in CERN: pion decay to electron, neutral currents, W and Z and recently Higgs boson. So in relation to 60th anniversary of CERN we decided to propose an experiment related to a peculiar property of weak force, namely its preference to left-handed particles and right-handed antiparticles.”
- their video
- exctract from their proposal “Crystal calorimeter”: ““Through our experiment, we hope that other students will become interested in the wondrous world of physics, just as we are. We want to let students see that physics is interesting, challenging and fun. We want them to realise that physics is accessible too; everyone is able to set up and run an experiment. In short, we want our unique calorimeter to be an inspiration to other students!”
- their video