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HiSPARC - Doing Real Particle Physics Research in Schools

Lead Institution: University of Bristol

Project Report

HiSPARC is an ambitious physics engagement project that gets Key Stages 3 and 4 pupils doing real research on the high-energy particles - cosmic rays - that bombard the earth from outer space. It builds on a similar very successful 10 year-old program in the Netherlands, where more than 100 schools have simple-to-operate cosmic ray detectors installed on their roofs for generating and sharing data within a network managed by universities. Students build the detectors and analyse the data themselves under supervision from a local university. Data analysis is done through a large international collaboration; all the data and the analysis tools of the entire collaboration are accessible to every member.

Through this project, HiSPARC has been transferred successfully from the Netherlands to South West England. A detector system has been built at the University of Bristol to demonstrate what a system looks like and how easy it is to use. A launch event to encourage schools to sign up to the project has been held with four schools to date signing a contract to join HiSPARC: Red Maids’ School, Bristol Grammar School, New College Swindon and Royal High School in Bath. Furthermore, contracts have been requested by Sheldon School, Beechen Cliff School and Filton College. Cotham School, Orchard School, Hanham High School and the University of Bath are very interested in the scheme but have not yet requested a contract. Talks are also underway with @Bristol to install a system and an event display there.

In addition, a Dutch trainee teacher with a lot of experience in HiSPARC was engaged to translate and adapt the teaching material that was developed for the Netherland's HiSPARC project into English. He is currently visiting 7 schools to test the translated material.

The final report for the project can be downloaded below:

HiSPARC - Final Report

Project Highlights

1. Seven schools have signed up to HiSPARC (the initial target number was two) and others have committed to doing so.

2. Detectors are installed at the University of Bristol and have been stably taking data since February 2012.

3. HiSPARC teaching materials have been adapted and translated for the English school system. 

Staff involved

Dr Jaap Velthuis
Project lead, University of Bristol

Dr Helen Heath
University of Bristol