CERN — the European Organization for Nuclear Research

Masterclasses with cosmic rays





Marek Bombara



to increase high school students' interest in science research and promote a deeper understanding of the process of discovery


The SKALTA experiment (SlovaKiAn Large-area Time coincidence Array) measures secondary cosmic rays originating from a primary particle with energy more than 10^14 eV. The experimental setup has similar architecture as the successful projects ALTA (in Canada) and CZELTA (in Czech Republic) (see the urls).
We used data from this experiment to do a one day Masterclasses with 48 high school students (15.-19. years). The students were attending a one week Summer Physics School - so they all were interested in physics at some level. In cooperation with organisers one day of the school was devoted to this exercise.
The programme of the day was similar to usual Masterclasses in Particle Physics. At the start there was a presentation about Cosmic Ray Physics, detection techniques used in this field and description of the SKALTA experiment.
Second lecture was similar to Masterclasses introduction to the measurement. In this case we went through the web interface for data accessing and learn how to extract relevant information for our analysis.
After this introduction the two exercises (or problems) were introduced with analysis proposals and with some hints what to take into account during the analysis. Subsequently the students were asked to form groups for the analysis. They formed 9 groups with various member numbers (1 to 11). Most of the groups (7) finished the exercises successfully. The time for the analysis was about 3 hours (the lunch time excluded). In those 3 hours the students analysed the data and each group prepared a presentation with the analysis method used, the results and possible physical interpretation.
At the end a "conference" part started with presentations and discussions. One spokesperson was chosen for each group to present the results in front of all students. After each presentation the students discussed the results and their interpretation with some help and comments from expert and organizers side. This last part of the programme took about an hour.
The enclosed presentation shows the whole day in more detail.
My feeling after these masterclasses was that it was a success. I got a very positive feedback from several students at the end of the day. As far as I could see the students were enjoying whole day and moreover in one day they experienced a "scientific lifecycle":

  • learn the physics behind and the methods for data analysis
  • analyse data
  • prepare results
  • present and discuss the results in front of colleagues ("conference style")

Post date: Thu, Sep 01, 2011 — 14:47
Updated date: Tue, Nov 20, 2012 — 04:38

Learning Topics