HiSparc is a very successful outreach project for secondary school students to participate in real research on cosmic rays. So far only in one case has HiSparc taken a detector system back because it was not used. In Holland there are about 100 schools participating and many more on the waiting list. The 'oldest' schools joined approximately 10 years ago. The programme has been rolled out in other countries as well: Germany, Denmark, Austria, Vietnam, Poland and the UK. Our plan is to roll out HiSparc in the wider Bristol area and make use of the existing infrastructure and know-how of our Dutch colleagues.
The Earth is continuously bombarded by high energy particles coming from outer space. The first serious experiments were in 1912, when Victor Hess went up in a balloon to measure the rates of these particles. These particles generate showers in the atmosphere. The sources of these particles in terms of physics processes and production locations are still not well known. The rates at which the high energy ones occur are also not well known.
Large scientific collaborations are studying the rates of the (ultra) high energy showers. Showers are measured by looking for coincidences between hits in detectors. Time differences give information on the angle that the shower makes with respect to the detector system. Measuring the total pulse height of the signals in the detectors gives a density profile that allows a reliable estimation of the shower energy.
Some of the simple physics one can do includes measuring rates as a function of energy, rate variations as a function of the time of day, rate versus latitude, angular dependence of showers, looking for sources, etc. Many HiSparc systems now also have a weather station integrated as there are many models predicting different rates of cosmic particles depending on the weather; especially thunder storms. It should be noted that HiSparc is NOT a system/project with a limited physics reach. The aim and key to its success is that none of the physics studied is text book research. HiSparc combines outreach with proper research. The students actually do serious, new research and do not go through a list of plots that they can make and are then finished. For example, there are serious physics models that predict energetic showers occurring simultaneously that are separated by up to ~40km. Currently, there are not many detector systems that can measure those.
In HiSparc, cosmic ray detectors are placed on schools. These detectors are delivered as DIY kits. Students build the systems themselves. The kit contains all the parts needed build the system including cables, material to fix the boxes to the roof, etc. All the school needs to provide is power, a PC and an internet connection. The system comes either with 2 or 4 detectors.
The data is written to a central database. The students work in a large international collaboration and develop analysis tools in JAVA. These tools and all the data are made available to the entire community. The DAQ soft- and firmware is automatically updated remotely. HiSparc experts can also remotely log in to a station and study its performance and diagnose problems. The local responsible person is immediately warned by email that the system has problems.
HiSparc has developed a large amount of teaching material that teaches students about the basic physics underpinning this experiment: astro and particle physics, relativity, quantum mechanics and detector physics. The materials are aimed for students in the age group between 14 and 18 in the Dutch education system. These teaching programmes are currently being translated into English. We will also provide material for Continuing Professional Development for teachers and will try to send teachers to CERN for the High School Teachers at CERN programme. In addition we will organize annual conferences, extra lab sessions, extra lectures and special seminars.
Extra support is available to implement HiSparc in your teaching. A Dutch trainee teacher will be in Bristol to help implement the materials. He can come to your school to give some lessons or simply discuss the issues of implementing the Dutch materials in your teaching.
Extra information, joining instructions, costs, etc...
For more information, how to join, costs, etc... please see the talks from our information evening.
There is more information for students
Read more about HiSparc