Particle Physics for Fife, Kinross and Dundee: The LHC and the Higgs boson
Following July’s announcement of the discovery at CERN of a Higgs-like boson, we aimed to provide the opportunity for people of all ages in the area around St Andrews to engage with scientists at the forefront of the CERN physics programme, who were gathered for an international summer school. This project was supported by an IOP public engagement grant and an STFC small award.
To stimulate interest in LHC physics and technology, to deepen understanding of the physics beyond what is reported in the popular press, to raise awareness of the spinoffs and effects of the research on everyday life, and to emphasise the role that Scottish and other UK STFC researchers play in the LHC projects.
Summary of activity:
Participants attended a 45-minute talk, then spent around an hour in a hands-on exhibition, being guided round by PhD students and lecturers from the summer school. The hands-on displays were from the Particle Physics for Scottish Schools project (University of Edinburgh), the See-Through Science project (University of Glasgow), and the University of Glasgow undergraduate laboratories. The programme was repeated three times: in the morning and afternoon for S3 and S4 school groups (aged 14-15), and in the evening for the general public.
Participants were invited to return questionnaires at the end of their event.
What went well:
1. The evening audience spent around an hour in the hands-on exhibition, after the talk.
2. The evening event attracted a wide range of ages (U18 to 60+).
3. Both schools and evening audiences engaged well with the PhD students guiding them round the hands-on exhibition stations.
What was learned:
1. Audience size is hard to predict; late withdrawals meant 176 attended the daytime sessions instead of 250, and 56 attended the evening session; perhaps engagement with local journalists before could have helped boost the evening numbers.
2. Some councils' school visit approval procedures take several weeks, causing difficulties for an event shortly after the summer break.
3. Ambitious content could have been further simplified for the S3 pupil audience.
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