Students teach at 'inverted' school of computing

We’ve all been in classes where we already know the lesson being taught, and sometimes we know it better than the teacher. Most of the time, this means an exercise in restraint, but that’s not the case at the Inverted CERN School of Computing (iCSC.) This year marks the 6th installment of iCSC since 2005, and the motto continues to be “where students turn into teachers.”

Lecturers from institutes and universities around the world come to the CERN Schools of Computing (CSC) to train young engineers and scientists on CERN-specific computing issues, which are generally not a part of academic curricula. School director François Flückiger implemented the inverted school programme where students of recent CSCs submit proposals for lessons they would like to teach, and during the two-to-three day program, they deliver their lecture to a room full of their peers, teachers and colleagues.

“In some areas, the students will clearly be more knowledgeable then their CSC lecturers, and that is an excellent reason for them to contribute to the learning of the CSC and CERN communities,” says Andrzej Nowak, a lecturer for the CSC and iCSC mentor, who was a student-lecturer himself in 2008.

“Students design a lecture on the topic they’re knowledgeable on in order to spur interest," says Nowak. “The topics have a wide reach and are of general interest with an academic angle." This year, students chose to focus on a wide variety of topics such as Does an Optical Illusion Trick a Computer and What is a 3D Camera? 

Mattia Cinquilli, a fellow in the CERN IT department for the Experiment Support group, led a session about how every experiment on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN uses the Computing Grid in a different way. Cinquilli, from Perugia, Italy, attended last year’s iCSC and wanted to contribute his own expertise to the conversation surrounding the LHC Computing Grid. “I’ve been working on this subject for many years,” says Cinquilli. “When I went to CSC, I realized I knew more than what was said, and I wanted to go deeper.”

“The iCSC allows us to throw new ideas into the mix,” says Nowak. “It’s a very valuable forum.”