Tentative Plans: 3-week quarknet workshop.

Summer, 2004 Julia Thompson

Prof. of Physics, Univ. of Pittsburgh

Adjunct Prof. of Physics, Univ. of Missouri at St. Louis

A 3-week summer workshop for physics teachers was held at the University of Missouri at St. Louis (UMSL) from June 14 through July 2, 2004, through the quarknet program

The workshop was open to area high school physics teachers interested in expanding their knowledge of current modern physics and/or in participating in a proposed project to put cosmic ray detectors in high schools, eventually perhaps linking them into a shared network. Teachers registered for 1-3 credit hours from UMSL for the workshop, and received a personal stipend of $300./week, and a $250. instructional materials stipend, used generally to purchase materials required for the detectors.

    Workshop Description

Our workshop began with a general introduction to particle physics and other modern physics topics, include more information about particle physics experiments with which Thompson is connected, eg MINOS (a neutrino oscillation experiment) planned to run at Fermilab in Chicago, and introduce a project putting cosmic ray detectors in high schools. Most of the group traveled to Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, in the second week, where they learned more about particle physics and participated in some of the activities of the Quarknet lead teacher institute which was in session at the time of the visit.

Thompson and David Kraus planned the equipment construction and commissioning, and we received help from Fermilab in the form of GPS time-stamped data acquisition cards which allow collection and sharing of data from individual high schools via the web. They were assisted by Danny Franke, UMSL graduate student, in both the technical and pedagogical aspects of the project. Franke travelled with the undergraduates to a meeting with their sister NSF sponsored REUP-FOM site in Pittsburgh and there presented a short overview of cosmic ray detection . He is preparing an overview of the workshop for a general teacher audience such as the APS Forum on Education.


Gene Bender, De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis, Missouri, one of the two lead teachers, continued his work with the LBL electronics readout board. Two-counter array UMSL-5, shared with Leigh Reisinger.

Allen Daniel, Crossroads School, St. Louis, Missouri, remained after the rest of the group, to work on equipment for the GPS time-stamped setups, and reported on initial tests of the large scintillators for the GPS time-stamped arrays. Two-counter array UMSL-3, shared with Rich Niemann and Mike Johns.

Debbie Gremmelsbacher and Jim Small, Parkway South High School, St. Louis, worked together on development of a diffusion cloud chamber and an expansion cloud chamber, as well as participating with the other teachers in construction of the small 2-counter arrays. Ms. Gremmelsbacher was also one of the two lead teachers. Two-counter array UMSL-6.

Mike Johns, Chaminade Preparatory High School, St. Louis, Missouri, worked with the electronics group in preparing the simple "LBL" logic boards developed by Howard Matis, and also prepared a DVD movie of the summer.

Steve Grosland, Glenbrook South High School, Glenview, Illinois, worked on evaluation of the CASA scintillator.

Elisabeth Langford, Southeast High School, Springfield, Illinois, prepared two documents:

  • microsoft word version and html version of test procedures for the small two counter arrays and details on the testing of UMSL-3 and UMSL-4 scintillator counters,and
  • the effect of building materials on muons and electrons in the surface cosmic ray components.

    Rich Niemann, Brentwood School, Brentwood, Missouri, worked with Mike Johns and Gene Bender on construction of electronics for the small 2-counter arrays. (Niemann's students also built some of the high voltage power supplies for our equipment)

    Leigh Reisinger, St. Charles High School, St. Charles, Missouri, prepared several notes:

  • Discussion of simple experiments with the two counter setup;
  • Test data for UMSL-5 two-counter array (St. Charles and DeSmet)
  • Test data for UMSL-6 two-counter array (Parkway South)
  • Simple description of "CAMAC" system used for accumulating scintillator counter test data.

    Undergraduate Edwin Antillon from University of Colorado (Boulder) worked on PMT testing and rough calculations of particle losses as the cosmic rays travel through material. His power point presentation and paper on his computational results supported qualitatively the results of the experiment concerning the effect of building materials on muons and electrons in the surface cosmic ray components. which he and Angela Davis and Elisabeth Langford carried out. He also prepared some notes on our PMT testing and functioning:

  • PM_1.doc
  • PM_2.doc
  • PM_2.doc
  • Mathematica code to check simple cosmic ray shower estimates

    Undergraduate Angela Davis from Jackson State University, Jackson, Missippi, worked on a variety of topics including soldering, construction of counters, study of building plans in support of Elisabeth Langford's studies, and work with Steve Grosland on tests of the CASA scintillator. For her presentation she prepared a comic strip introduction to cosmic rays , suitable for the general public.


    Our Pitt/UMSL Quarknet web site and the Pitt quarknet proposal talks more about the research quarknet activities and gives the flavor of the overall work.

    Here is a list of books of interest or available in our mini-library .

    Posters and notebooks in our mini-library describing the physics of cosmic rays and detectors, and other research in this area.

      Workshop Activities

    Mornings at UMSL were generally spent in exploring new material, either through presentations by Thompson or one of her colleagues, or through guided internet exploration, with group feedback, and responsive to group questions. Working lunches will be used to continue discussion of material studied in the morning, and questions raised. Afternoons were spent on the construction and study of the cosmic ray detectors. Teachers learned use of oscilloscopes and other basic electronics techniques for studying fast data signals.

    A sketch of the workshop activities follows. See schedule for more detailed notes.

      Week 1:

  • Mon: plans, group questions, general particle physics. Introduction to CosRayHS project. Lecture by Prof. Ta-Pei Cheng on fundamental questions in particle physics.
  • Tue: cosmic rays, demonstration.
  • Wed: "modern", particle physics, and related topics as selected by the group (e.g., particle decays and interactions, special relativity, particle detectors, electronics, etc.)
  • Thu: continued study as above.
  • Fri: continued study as above, also visit by particle physicist Larry Gladney. Discussion of SNAP experiment (satellite supernovae survey aimed at constraining models of dark energy). Introductory material about SNAP is also available.
    • Week 2:

    Most of the group will travel to Fermilab, near Chicago, will visit the high school teacher visitor's center there, tour the lab and some individual experiments, and take part in some of the activities of the Quarknet "lead teacher institute." Those who remain in St. Louis worked on the cosmic ray detectors and visited the cosmic ray group at Washington University:
  • Description of the group's work with cosmic ray isotopic composition, with emphasis on CRIS detector Ni and Co measurements showing that these nuclei were not stripped immediately of electrons as they were accelerated out of their supernova.
  • .
  • High energy galactic cosmic rays using the TIGER detector .
  • The group's plans to join in studies of neutrino interactions. .

      Week 3:

    Continue studies in the mornings, including lesson plans from other high school cosmic ray sites. In the afternoons, finish building and commissioning small cosmic ray counters. Introduction to GPS sharp timing techniques and the GPS time-stamped apparatus which will allow more sophisticated data to be accumulated and shared with others vis the web.

    Thursday will be devoted to wrapup activities, and Friday will be final presentations.

      Weeks 4 and 5:

    Leigh Reisinger and Allen Daniel will be continuing work in weeks 4 and 5. This work will be aimed at finishing and commissioning GPS time stamp setups.

      Advisory committee

    An advisory committee, led by Gene Bender and Debbie Gremmelsbacher and composed of teachers of varying backgrounds and acquaintance with the cosmic ray project, assisted in finalizing details of the workshop. The advisory committee comprised:

  • Gene Bender, De Smet Jesuit, St. Louis;
  • Debbie Gremmelsbacher, Parkway South, St. Louis;
  • Mark Godwin, Governor's School, South Carolina;
  • Steve Grosland, Chicago;
  • Elizabeth Langford, Springfield;
  • Venue

    The headquarters of the workshop will be 405 Research Hall, UMSL.

    If you are interested in learning more about the workshop, please contact Prof. Julia Thompson at: jth@pitt.edu.

    Other Educational Outreach Activities

    Information about Thompson's other activities with undergraduates and high school teachers is available.

    Last modified June 16, 2004, by J.A. Thompson