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CERN announces winners of its 2015 beamline for schools competition

Geneva, 15 June 2015. CERN1 today announced the winners of its 2015 beamline for schools competition. Two teams of high-school students have been selected to travel to CERN in September to carry out their own experiments using a CERN accelerator beam. The winners, the “Leo4G” team from Liceo Scientifico Leonardo da Vinci School in Florence, Italy and the “Accelerating Africa” team from St John's College and Barnato Park High School in Johannesburg, South Africa, were selected from 119 teams from around the world, adding up to about 1050 high-school students.

The aim of the beamline for schools competition is to make a fully equipped beamline available for high-school students to run an experiment in the same way that researchers do at the Large Hadron Collider and other CERN facilities. 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, 119 proposals had been submitted. Teams of CERN scientists then evaluated proposals based on creativity, motivation, feasibility and scientific method. After two rounds of evaluation, 13 teams2 were highly commended and put forward for final selection by an official CERN committee that assigns beam time to experiments. The committee chose two winning teams, both of which have been invited to CERN to carry out their experiments together.

“Leo4G” is a team of 19 students from Liceo Scientifico Leonardo da Vinci school, 10 of which will travel to CERN. Their project involves using and calibrating a particle detector built from common and low-cost materials, namely a customised web-cam. To prepare their proposal, they got in touch with their local physics research centre and visited a linear particle accelerator in the INFN section of the University of Florence.

“From the very beginning I believed in the positive side-effects that being involved in such an experience would have on my learners and on me,” said Manuela Lima, teacher at Leonardo da Vinci School. “It was a race against time because we really had very little time to prepare our project. We worked very hard also outside of school hours and everyone contributed by giving his and her best. I am certain that none of us will ever forget this fantastic event and achievement!”

“The opportunity given to us is unique: we think this experience will make us grow in so many ways, introducing us to one of the most advanced centre of research in the world,” said student Sabrina.

“Accelerating Africa” is a collaboration of students from St John's College and Barnato Park High School and comprises 10 students. Their project is inspired by 2015 being named the International Year of Light by the United Nations, and involves producing high-energy gamma rays using a crystalline undulator.

"I now have an idea what it must feel like to receive a phone call from Stockholm. Learning the news that we were joint winners of the CERN Beam Line for Schools Competition will be an experience I will always remember”, said Colleen Henning, teacher at St John's College. “We are all incredibly grateful to CERN for this opportunity for ourselves and our country. We hope that winning this competition will encourage science students in South Africa to believe in themselves and know that anything is possible. We are looking forward to carrying out our experiment at CERN."

"When I first heard the good news I was ecstatic, my hands were shaking and my heart was beating faster than usual,” said Malaika, a student from Barnato Park High School. “I've always wanted to pursue a career in Physics or Engineering and winning this amazing competition has brought me closer to my dreams. I've always wanted to travel abroad as I have never been overseas nor have I been in an airplane. I'm truly thankful for this opportunity given to me and I know that I will take it with my two bare hands and not let go of it."

The first beamline for schools competition was launched to coincide with CERN’s 60th anniversary last year. In September 2014, two teams, comprising students from Athens, Greece and from Nijmegen in the Netherlands, worked together on the CERN beamline. For this year’s competition, two support scientists have been preparing facilities since February in order to implement the experiments of the winning teams. They will help implement the experiments of the winning teams when they visit CERN for their allocated beam time in September.

We are thrilled to be able to offer this experience to high-school students, thanks to support via the CERN & Society Foundation,” said Markus Joos, coordinator of this year’s initiative. “We hope for continued support to be able to make this a regular competition so that more students can get the chance to experience real science.”

Beamline for schools is an education and outreach project funded by the CERN & Society Foundation, supported by individuals, foundations and companies. The project is funded in part by the Fund Ernest Solvay, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, and funded in part by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


Further information:

Team “Leo4G”: Extract from their proposal “More than a webcam: Low-cost particle detector”: “What we wanted to demonstrate is how a tool for particle beam diagnostic, that can be used in a real experiment, could be realized with common materials. So we though: will we be able to use a mid-market web cam to analyze the particles? At the beginning all we got was just an idea: we read up on it the bases and have built a particle detector based on the CMOS detector, but we think that there are many different possible variation of the experiments. All we want is to realize them at CERN with the help of experts; we'd enjoy working in the most prestigious center for scientific research, trying to understand what means to be a researcher and then, of course, sharing our experience with all the other students.” Watch their video!

Team “Accelerating Africa”: Extract from their proposal “Crystal Undulator Radiation”: “We firmly believe that the impact that we could make would not only benefit the world, but also create a strong scientific culture in South Africa. With the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) coming to South Africa, we believe our country has huge potential to be a scientific hub in Africa and students in South Africa need to be the future scientists. 2015 is the International Year of Light. We have been fascinated by the history of synchrotrons from the first accidental observation of synchrotron radiation to the recent development of 3rd generation synchrotrons and Free Electron Lasers. We therefore propose an experiment that could be the next step in the production of brilliant light sources. Electromagnetic radiation has and continues to form the basis of modern technology, and we have, therefore, proposed an experiment to produce high energy gamma rays using a crystalline undulator which we would love to conduct at CERN.” Watch their video!

The CERN Beam line for schools competition

1. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its member states are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Romania is a Candidate for Accession. Serbia is an Associate Member in the pre-stage to Membership. Turkey is an Associate Member. India, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, the European Union, JINR and UNESCO have observer status.
2. Of the 119 proposals submitted, 13 were given the status of highly commended. In alphabetical order by team name, these were as follows: Accelerating Africa from South Africa, Atid from Israel, curioCERNty from the United States of America, Flash Team from Portugal, Leo4G from Italy, Muonsters from Spain, Photon Hunters from Spain, Prerna from United States of America, R4CERN (R_ookies of R_ats R_ock the R_ays at CERN) from Germany, Salesianos-Úbeda from Spain, Team Nutella from Canada, Team Tachyon from Canada and The Princesses of Particles from Germany.