CERN announces winners of 2015 Beamline for Schools contest

CERN 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.

Screenshot from team Leo4G's proposal video (Video: Leo4G)

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 teams 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.

Screenshot from Accelerating Africa's proposal video (Video: Accelerating Africa)

“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.

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.

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.

Read more: CERN press release