Becky Parker, Building cosmic ray detector networks in schools

Enabling school students to do real science via CERN technology. Want to show kids that they can be involved in what is going on now, that science is vibrant and interesting subject.

The Langton Star Centre is ?at Simon Langton Grammar School, Kent, gives student change to work alongside scientists and engineers. They go to CERN every year, and one year visited the lab of Dr Michael Campbell’s Medipix lab, working on a chip for the ALICE detector. Can be used for medical imaging. Lots of research and collaboration using this chip.

Competition for schools to design experiment to go into space. Wanted to do a cosmic ray intensity detector using Medipix chip – called LUCID, which ?will fly in 2012. Won, but project was a bit expensive so they have an earthbound version too.

Wanted to get more schools involved, which led to CERN@School, so different schools can look at cosmic rays in space and on earth via detector in their own lab. Pick up data and then examine it in the school lab, can do particle recognition.

Found it hard to get the money together, but got a pilot scheme in a ten other schools that take data at a set time each day. Schools pool the data, then it goes up on LSC servers and can see it on a map. But how to analyse it and get good science out of it? Now have a model using grid storage and computing. Will soon be able to do analysis of tracks.

Next step would be linking up with other cosmic ray projects.

Expanded project would enable sophisticated analysis and potentially useful result. If had enough schools, would have an enormous network of detectors, might be able to discover particles above GZK limit.

CERN@School invigorates teachers as well as inspiring students. Hope to attract more scientists into schools. Doing real science, real analysis, is not only fantastic, it also shows how smart and capable these students are.