October 15, 2010
Europe/Zurich timezone

Represented Projects

In no particular order, the projects that will take part in the workshop are:


GERMANY: Cosmic Particle Projects for School Students - 6 Years of experience at DESY

Michael Walter (michael.walter [at] desy.de)

The goal of the cosmic particle project is to interest school girls/boys of the 9.-13. classes in modern physics. Two types of experiments are used:

  • small particle detectors as scintillation counters and the Kamiokannen of the Univ. Mainz (water filled coffee cans with a pmt measuring cherenkov light) a DAQ card, and a notebook for data taking, storage and analysis.
  • more sophisticated but also simple scintillation counter experiments continously taking data which can be analyzed via a website (cosmic trigger hodoscope installed at DESY and a detector installed on a research vessel going from Europe to Antarctica and back).

This allows to perform different interesting measurements and investigations:

  • with small detectors: particle rate dependence on the angle, measurement of the livetime and velocity of the muon, influence of absorbing materials.
  • with the installed trigger hodoscope: particle rate dependence on weather conditions, on time of the year, on the solar cycle.
  • with the detector installed on the ship: rate dependence on weather and latitude

There are different possibilities to perform these investigations under the guidance of M.W. and a diploma or PhD student of the astroparticle group:

  • practical work at DESY (1, 2 or more weeks).
  • project week for a group of students from different schools.
  • project works of students over a school year with different topics.

The results have to be presented as a note, presentation, poster or website. Interested students are also supported to learn linux and modern programming languages as C++ or Python.


UK: CERN@school linked up by the Grid

Becky Parker (becky [at] beckyparker.co.uk)

The CERN@school kit uses Timepix chips from the Medipix collaboration at CERN to take cosmic ray data in schools. We have eleven schools across Kent taking data each day which is then automatically uploaded to a server at the Langton Star Centre and made available to all participating schools via the CERN@school website. The pilot network is developing well with great enthusiasm shown by staff and students alike. The students also use the kit for many radioactivity experiments and imaging. We hope to extend the CERN@school network widely. In early 2012 data will come from the Langton Ultimate Cosmic ray Intensity Detector, LUCID, which will fly on a satellite as a cosmic ray detector also using Timepix chips from the Medipix Collaboration. In preparation for the amount of data generated then we are working with GridPP to develop analysis software for the data once it is uploaded to the Grid. We are also excited about the possibility of a LUCID detector flying round the Moon on the ESA European Student Moon Orbiter. The whole project with the CERN@school kits is enthusing students such that we note increased applications to physics, engineering and computer science.


USA: The QuarkNet project

Tom Jordan (jordant [at] fnal.gov)

We describe installation of cosmic ray muon detectors in high schools and universities. Students and teachers assemble and operate the scintillation-based detectors after attending workshops hosted by physicists at their local universities. The current version of the readout offers four analog PMT inputs, a four-channel time-to-digital converter, programmable trigger logic and local threshold time resolution of 1.25 ns. The detectors bind their local clocks to the GPS standard so that data across several, independent locations can agree to better to 80 ns accuracy. Users upload raw data from these detectors to a web-based electronic laboratory—an e-Lab. Users can inspect and analyze data from their own or other detectors. The e-Lab provides access to simple analysis routines as well as a facility for downloading raw or pre-processed data that users can analyze with their own routines. They can publish their findings in an on-line poster and keep track of their work in their e-Lab logbook. The QuarkNet[1] project has overseen the development, production and revision of several generations of the detector since 2001. There are currently more than 550 detectors in 18 countries.

[1] Supported by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.


GREECE: HELYCON for Education and Research

Spyros Tzamarias (tzamaria [at] eap.gr)

HELYCON– "HEllenic LYceum Cosmic Observatories Network" is a distributed cosmic ray telescope for research and education. The telescope comprises an extended network of detector stations installed on roofs of Lyceum and University buildings. A station consists of at least three large (1m2 effective area each) scintillation counters with a inter-detector distance of about 20 meters. It also includes a GPS based synchronization system, digitization and control electronics as well as a data acquisition system on a personal computer. A very detailed simulation and reconstruction software package has been developed in order to describe the individual detector and the whole station/telescope performance. The HELYCON detectors have undergone several, successful tests concerning their sensitivity and resolution in recording and reconstructing EAS’s, in excellent agreement with the simulation predictions. Furthermore, HELYCON provided the platform for the development of an external calibration system for underwater neutrino telescopes, such as the KM3NeT.

HELYCON, in full deployment, will consist of station-networks in the areas of Patras, Thessaloniki, Chios island and Nicosia in Cyprus. The collected data by each station are broadcasted, through the internet, to the main counting rooms for further processing and the reconstructed EAS’s become available to the users for physics analysis. The users, high school and university communities, will also have the means to perform calibration and test operations on individual stations as well as to participate in the development and construction of the HELYCON instrumentation. An interactive control, data monitoring and DAQ online system has been developed in order to provide user-friendly communication with each HELYCON station. An extensive collection of e-lectures and videos concerning the use of HELYCON in education (fundamental interactions and the properties of matter, instrumentation and signal processing, calibration procedures and laboratory guides, data analysis techniques etc) have been already developed and used in special courses for university students and high school teachers. Several educational events have been already organized, using the operating HELYCON stations, with the participation of many high school physics teachers. A Summer School for physics students and teachers is planned for the summer of 2011 to initiate the HELYCON use in high school educational activities including high school students’ participation in construction, deployment and operation of HELYCON stations.


CZECH REPUBLIC: CZELTA - overview of the project

Karel Smolek (Karel.Smolek [at] utef.cvut.cz)

CZELTA (CZEch Large are Time coincidence Array) is the sparse network of stations for the detection of cosmic rays with energy more than 10^14 eV. The detector system covers large area in the Czech Republic and is related to the similar experiment ALTA in Canada. Other European projects with the identical detection stations in Slovakia, Great Britain, and Romania are intended to work in a cooperation with the CZELTA network. The network is designed to study of non-random component of cosmic rays over large distances. In addition to the scientific purpose, the project has also educational impacts - the detection stations are built at roofs of high schools and gifted students are involved in the project. In the contribution, we present the design of the detection system, obtained results, and our outreach activities connected to the project.


UK: Cosmic ray detection at the University of Birminham

John Wilson (jaw [at] hep.ph.bham.ac.uk)

The Particle Physics group at the University of Birmingham, UK, has developed a diffusion cloud chamber, a spark chamber and a scintillation telescope which together not only illustrate the fundamentals of particle detection and the presence of cosmic rays but also allow quantitative measurements to be made.

Although these developments have proceeded independently, it is natural now to consider consolidating these three approaches in a common framework.

The spark chamber was designed by final year Physics Masters students and constructed in the departmental workshops. An accompanying website was also prepared. The upshot is a very robust device which can be transported quite easily to local schools and meetings.

The construction of the diffusion cloud chamber was an ideal student project, involving readily available materials and components. With the help of the departmental workshop, the final device was built and reliably shows alpha particle tracks from radioactive decay. The more ephemeral trails of cosmic rays can also be seen.

The scintillation telescope is a copy of the QuarkNet Cosmic Ray detector. Birmingham is the first UK group to join the QuarkNet project. The telescope is fully operational and its data will allow students to investigate quantitatively the cosmic rays which they can observe directly with the cloud and spark chambers.



Solène Chevalier-Thery (solene.thery [at] obspm.fr)

"Cosmos à l'Ecole" is one of the equipment plans organized by the french ministerial plan "Sciences à l'Ecole" in partnership with IN2P3 and CERN. "Sciences à l'Ecole", created in March 2004 by the National Education Ministry and the Higher Education and research Ministry, is dedicated to the promotion of Sciences in the French school system for upper and lower secondary school pupils.

The cosmodetector has been developed by Jose Busto from the CPPM laboratory and is composed of three photomultiplicatores, electronics controlled by a program for data acquisition and treatment. A first campaign of equipment has been done in October 2009. Seven detectors have been distributed in France to selected teachers. 

Those teachers have followed the training course on particle physics at CERN and on the use of the detector at the CPPM. All teachers are helped by one researcher of IN2P3: the researcher shares with the teacher his knowledge of the particle physics so that the teacher can explain it to its pupils. We also provide to teachers a list of pedagogical supports such as explanations on the use of the detector, pedagogical activities, possible experiments... A forum has been developed to allow the teachers to share their experience and problems.

"Cosmos à l'Ecole" has a national committee composed of researchers (mainly from IN2P3), educational inspectors and secondary teachers.


UK: The King's College London Cosmic Ray Project

Alan Michette (alan.michette [at] kcl.ac.uk)

Alan Michette, Sam Samuels, Ashley Motto[1]

King’s College London, Department of Physics, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK

James Pinfold, Richard Soluk
University of Alberta, Centre for Particle Physics Research, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2N6, Canada

David Smith
Highgate School, Head of Physics, North Road, London N6 4A, UK

Nidaa Mir
Rickmansworth School, Scots Hill, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, WD3 3AQ


The King’s College cosmic ray project is based on the original ALTA concept from the University of Alberta. Undergraduate students build and test the detectors for their third and fourth year projects, and then help to place the detectors in local schools; each school gets three scintillator/light guide/photomultiplier modules plus the appropriate electronics; we are currently evaluating the use of SiPMTs to replace conventional photomultipliers. To date detector sets have been placed in two schools, at Highgate and Rickmansworth, and a third set is under construction (the number of detectors that we have been able to build is limited by budgetary considerations, and by the amount of time that undergraduate students can devote to the work). The aim is for school pupils and their teachers to take part in the day to day running of the detectors, and the data collection and analysis. The detectors are supplied with a computer and a weather station, so that the data can be correlated with local weather conditions. The educational aim is to enhance interest in real science at a relatively early age, thereby encouraging school pupils to study science at university and hopefully continue in suitable careers. Parents and other local people are also involved through a series of public meetings to publicize the project.


Funding for the project has been provided by the King’s College Development Fund, and by the UK Institute of Physics. We are also grateful for the CZELTA team for their support and advice.

[1]King’s people currently involved. Several students have participated over the past few years, most recently Cetin Selim.


The Netherlands: HISPARC

Jan-Willem van Holten (jwvholten [at] gmail.com)

The HiSPARC experiment is a network of some 80 cosmic ray detectors in the Netherlands, build by and maintained in a collaboration of high schools and research institutes (Nikhef, KVI and universities). Detectors consist of sets of scintillator plates several meters apart, read out in coincidence mode to enhance signal-to-noise ratio. Dedicated electronics and software for read-out and data handling has been developed. Data are stored centrally as well as locally, and are available for both research and educational applications. Teachers are actively involved in research projects, and play a key role in the translation of science into class room material. 


Italy:The Extreme Energy Events project

Despina Chatzifotiadou (despina.hatzifotiadou [at] cern.ch)

 The Extreme Energy Events (EEE) project aims to study extended air showers from high energy cosmic rays and extreme energy events by detecting the muon component of the shower. To achieve this goal, a network of muon telescopes has been installed in high schools distributed all over Italy. The project has been conceived by Prof. A. Zichichi in order to rekindle the interest of young people in science and give them a first-hand experience of scientific research. To ensure their full involvement in all stages of the project, they participate in the construction of the muon detectors, setting up and commissioning of the telescopes, installation in the schools and the data-taking and analysis. The project is financed by the Italian Ministry for Education, Universities and Research (MUIR), the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN) and the “Centro Studi e Ricerche e Museo Storico della Fisica Enrico Fermi”; CERN is also a partner in the project.

 Each muon telescope consists of three large area (80 x 160 cm2) Multigap Resistive Plate Chambers (MRPCs). Each MRPC has 6 gas gaps of 300 microns. This design is based on the 10 gap MRPCs used for the Time Of Flight (TOF) system of the ALICE experiment at LHC. Ionizing particles produce avalanches inside the gas volume, which induce signals on 24 pick-up strips. They are read out at both ends, thus allowing the hit position along the strip to be obtained from the time difference. The front end electronics is based on the ultrafast NINO amplifier and discriminator developed for the ALICE TOF. The readout is a VME based system, using high resolution TDCs and a GPS card for the absolute time stamp needed to correlate events from different stations.

 The efficiency of the MRPCs is better than 95% and the time resolution (σ) is 100 ps. The position resolution is of the order of 1 cm; thus the muon direction is reconstructed with an angular resolution of 0.30 (RMS).

 The MRPCs for the muon telescopes were built at CERN by high school pupils and teachers under the supervision of researchers from INFN, Italian Universities and the Centro Fermi. The construction was distributed over the years 2005-2009. At this moment 34 stations are operational or in various stages of being installed, equipped and commissioned. In addition there is a long list of high schools eager to join the project.

 The stations that are fully operational and take data routinely have started looking for coincidences between schools. The first publication covers the results of the detection of extensive air showers by means of time coincidences between two telescopes in L’Aquila, 180 m apart.


UK : The CREATE Project

Lee Thompson (l.thompson [at] sheffield.ac.uk)

The CREATE (Cosmic Ray Experimental Apparatus for Teaching) project  received funding from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in 2005 via its Large Awards for the Public Understanding of Science scheme. The CREATE consortium comprised of a number of academics from astroparticle physics and particle physics at the Universities of Durham, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield. The rationale behind CREATE was to identify a suitable design for a cosmic ray detector for schools that was easily scalable to many units and which used, wherever possible, off-the-shelf materials. Overall cost was also a priority when considering different design strategies.

 The project finally chose a design comprising plastic scintillator tiles, wavelength-shifting fiber and small area, low voltage, PMTs, all of which fulfilled the design brief. In order to complete the project on time however a compromise was made in the choice of data acquisition and electronics and a bespoke solution, as used by the HiSPARC project, was purchased. To date CREATE detectors are operating successfully in 2 schools with another soon to be deployed.



Vlad Popa (vpopa [at] spacescience.ro)

ROCOSMICS was intended as the Romanian counterpart of the EUROCOSMICS initial project. The main objective is to prepare the deployment in Romania of a widely distributed network of cosmic ray detectors in high schools, and is coordinated by the Institute for Space Sciences, Bucharest – Magurele, in collaboration with the University and the Polytechnic University of Bucharest.

We established contacts with many interested high schools in different locations, with Universities in other towns as well as with the local authorities. Demonstrations have been made in occasion of various spin-off actions dedicated to young students and the general public.

Two pilot stations are functional. One of it, of the ALTA type, is deployed at ISS and presently interconnected with the CZELTA network. The second one uses a different scintillator geometry and optical fibers instead of light guides. It was designed in order to optimize the costs, and is used for tests.

ROCOSMICS is supported by ANCS under contract 91-070/2007.