Trigger happy in Poland: Krakow hosts ISOTDAQ 2012

In February, Krakow hosted the third International School of Trigger and Data Acquisition (ISOTDAQ), which gives students practical TDAQ experience

CERN physicist Gökhan Ünel started the first International School of Trigger and Data Acquisition (ISOTDAQ) in Ankara, Turkey in 2010, when he realized that universities and institutes were supplying the manpower for data acquisition, but not the training. "Trigger and data acquisition is just too specialized for university courses,” he says.

Two years later, 48 students from Europe, India and Canada descended on Krakow, Poland, for the third installment of Ünel's school: ISOTDAQ 2012. Twenty tutors and lecturers – including four from the ACEOLE / Marie Curie project at CERN – gave talks on theory and led practical sessions featuring computers, electronics hardware and even a small muon detector.

“It’s really good that you can touch the hardware and get down to some programming in the lab sessions,” says participant Sandra Saornil of the LHCb silicon tracker group. “Other schools have a more theoretical approach, but here you can really see how the hardware works.”

To enable hands-on sessions, CERN sends 600 kilograms of electronics modules and computers to ISOTDAQ each year. The rest of the time the equipment is kept operational in a permanent lab at CERN. “We need it to train the tutors for the school,” says organizer Markus Joos, “and it’s used for outreach activities too. It’s also available to summer students.”

Though it may seem niche, TDAQ is a generic concept, says ATLAS member Krzysztof Korcyl, who took on much of local organization. “It can be used in a one-person lab experiment or in any other project right up to the scale of the LHC detectors, and we reflect that in our curriculum,” he says.

The wide curriculum at ISOTDAQ should appeal to people inside CERN and elsewhere, whether physicists, computer scientists or engineers, and organizers hope the school makes a real contribution to knowledge transfer from CERN.

ISOTDAQ 2012 was hosted by the Department of Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science of the Cracow University of Technology and co-organized by the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow. The ACEOLE Marie Curie programme cosponsored the school and the Polish Academy of Sciences subsidized 15 students' attendance. National Instruments sponsored and ran one of the exercises.