2014 Annual Report - Vanderbilt University

  The Vanderbilt group is in the 12th year of managing and organizing, as well as mentoring teachers for the middle Tennessee QuarkNet program.  The effort started with Robert Panvini, was put on a firm footing with the leadership of Med Webster, and recently continues with Bill Gabella as the main organizer and mentor. 

  The Vanderbilt QuarkNet program has about a dozen teachers that routinely attend the QuarkNet week during the summer, or "checkout" the cosmic ray muon detectors during the school year. They comprise various levels of hardware expertise and many lack familiarity with the Cosmic Ray e-Lab functionality of the program. This motivated the invitation for Bob Peterson to visit and give a refresher on the e-Lab this year. The Vanderbilt program presently oversees two cosmic ray muon detectors (CRMDs) permanently being installed in local high schools, and three others for teachers to checkout for part of the academic year.  A sixth CRMD exists but has non-standard sized scintillators that is sometimes used for very specific muon studies/demonstrations.

  In 2014, Gabella was the principal QuarkNet Mentor though still well aided and supported by Webster. If there was a theme, it was QuarkNet's Cosmic Ray e-Lab, the online facility to store, analyze, and compare the data from the muon detectors.  This central repository has data from a great many QuarkNet high schools both in the U.S. and around the world. The Vanderbilt QuarkNet teachers are great at using the CRMDs in the classroom but are less facile with the Cosmic Ray e-lab. To this end, Robert Peterson, once a high school physics teacher now become a QuarkNet teacher coach, visited Vanderbilt for two days to specifically work with the teachers on the e-Lab.  The effort finished with teachers creating online presentations about their studies---just as their students would do in a teaching situation. Dr. Ken Cecire, the PI for the QuarkNet program, also visited during the first half of the week. He shared with the teachers the breadth of the current program.

  There were excellent talks on CMS status and update plans by Johns, on CMS physics status by Delannoy, and Jennifer Piscionere gave an excellent talk on the controversial Bicep2 result claiming observation of gravity waves from the Big Bang. This nicely tied into the 2012 QuarkNet theme of gravity waves. Gabella talked about the LHC and its upgrades, while Webster discussed the history of measuring the speed-of-light. That afternoon the speed-of-muons was measured using the CRMDs. This helped prepare the teachers for Peterson's lessons on using the e-Lab with the data.


  Though budgetary restrictions inhibited a distant trip, the group did visit several local, middle Tennessee venues that might be useful for the teachers to use for both school trips and for possible collaboration on projects for their students. The QuarkNet group spent a full day at the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory, now an outreach and education facility with an emphasis on astronomy. Dr. Billy Teets and Bob Schweikert gave excellent tours and demonstrations. The teachers made dirty snowball comets, saw a variety of sun dials, visited the artistic camera obscura, saw by eye and by camera live images of a very active sun. Besides the scientific edification, the QuarkNet teachers learned of many opportunities for visits and science activities.

  The QuarkNet team also spent a half-day visiting the outreach and education center at the Arnold Engineering and Development Center near Tullahoma, TN. Hosted by Jere Matty, he showed us the array of activities they host, including different levels of robotics, the use of instrumented, small wind tunnels, and many classroom activities.  The week finished at the University of Tullahoma Space Institute, where Dr. Bill Hofmeister gave us a tour of the Center for Laser Applications, and a discussion and demonstration of the phase change of water as the air is removed from a vacuum chamber.

  There are a dozen active QuarkNet teachers and in any given summer there may be 5-8 that can attend Vanderbilt's QuarkNet week. A relationship with all the teachers continues during the school year, and many of the QuarkNet teachers have been active for years in the program.

  In 2013, two of our teachers attended a data analysis program at FNAL. This involved looking at, analyzing, data from the detectors.  It was a forerunner of the 2014 ``Data Camp.''

  In 2014, one of our teachers Meaghan Berry attended ``Data Camp'' at FNAL and though unable to attend the Vanderbilt program, returned with great enthusiasm and interest. She became the first teacher to checkout a detector for the 2014 academic year.

Middle School Internship Day

Webster and Gabella also host up to four eighth graders each February. This is a middle school internship/career day program, and the students must have expressed an interesting in particle physics or nuclear physics.  The Vanderbilt team has received great reviews from the students and the school, as of 2014 having hosted students for 5 years. Webster and Gabella use the QuarkNet muon detectors in a configuration as a telescope, with one pair on the 10th floor and the other pair on the 8th floor, in a stairwell. With three-fold coincidence, the telescope measures the rate and timing of muon hits. With the long baseline and a systematic correction of swapping one of the upper detectors with a lower one, measurements of the muon speed, essentially the speed-of-light, can be better than 3\%.

  For the students, they arrive and immediately handle the hardware setting up the first data collection. For that hour, rates are low because of the long baseline, the students hear friendly, somewhat informal, discussions of cosmic rays, muons, and the detector hardware. Webster discusses the history of the speed-of-light measurement, and the need for the swapping an upper scintillator with a lower detector to cancel the systematic delays in the signal from the cabling and electronics.  Gabella discusses the analysis of the timing data using Google Docs spreadsheets. Students, who are only somewhat familar with spreadsheets from their school, learn to look for outliers by hand, to set up histograms to find outliers and averages, and to make plots.

  Gabella and Webster's goal is for the students to handle hardware, and not be intimidated by it or careless, to run the DAQ computer program, and finally to analyze the data.

2014 Annual Report - Idaho State University

The tenth annual ISU QuarkNet Summer Institute was held June 16 - 20, 2014.  QuarkNet veterans Tegan Byerly of Caldwell, Idaho, Robert Franckowiak of Logan, Virginia Jones of Idaho Falls, Dr. Steven Millward of Grace, Idaho, Daniel VanWasshenova of Pocatello, Idaho, Keith Quigley of Roy Utah, participated this year, along with QuarkNet newbie Michael Matusek of Pocatello, Idaho.  During the institute, these Associate Teachers and Dr. Steve Shropshire plateaued each detector and did a preliminary blessing of each CRD.  Starting Tuesday Robert Fannkowiak led us in an advanced workshop on using all three e-lab tools for calibrating detectors.  All 36 counters in our 9 CRDs were plateaued and blessed using a standardized procedure, and set to a standard count rates over the same intervals while stacked together.  The hope is that this will allow coordinated flux studies with the CRDs widely separated over three states this school year.  The Associate Teachers uploaded data for analysis, and posted four reports on the QuarkNet web site.  They also prepared lesson plans for their schools to use with the cosmic ray detectors. 


Three lectures were given during the workshop.  The topics were Current Research at the IAC, presented by Dr. Alan Hunt, Current Research at CERN by Robert Frankowiak, and Developing a Cherenkov detector for Jefferson national Accelerator Laboratory.


During the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014, all nine cosmic ray detectors were shared between all ten of the Associate Teachers who participated in the 2013 Summer Institute.  Each teacher used one or two detectors for the whole school year to introduce their students to particle physics.  All six Associate Teachers who participated in the 2014 Summer Institute will use one or two of the nine ISU detectors in this fashion in the fall of 2013 and spring of 2014.

2014 Annual Report - U Rochester


Mentor: Kevin McFarland

Our 2014 meetings (August 1, 8, 25) had a single focus: to revise and refine the high school classroom activities (developed in 2010 using MINERvA data) and the Neutrinos in the Classroom website (developed in 2012). Ms. Carol Hoffman, and Mr. Paul Sedita, both from Rochester, participated in the working group. The work was supervised by myself and Nathaniel Tagg.

The main objective of the project is to give students a chance to access particle physics data and to ask their own questions and draw their own conclusions from the data.  This is done in the context of a set of exercises that require limited interpretation of the experimental data with specific goals that are related to the standard high school curriculum.  The two exercises use two-track elastic neutrino scattering events to reconstruct information about the target using momentum conservation and radioactive decays of muons in the MINERvA detector to measure parameters of radioactive decay, such as the “half-life” and the released energy in the decay.

We were able to identify weaknesses in some of the materials and address those.  Another major goal was to improve the “packaging” of the materials to make it easier for participating teachers to take the materials from the website and develop a lesson plan tailored to their classroom. Much of this work was performed offsite by Carol Hoffman and Paul Sedita. The meeting times were used to discuss progress and areas on the website that still needed to be addressed by Nathaniel Tagg.


2014 Annual Report - Kansas State University

The K-State group held two workshops and a Master Class in the last fiscal year.

On February 15, 2014 we held a workshop at the KSU Physics department on Physics for Policy Makers and Master Class preparation work. Twelve teachers attended. Prof. Brett DePaola, ex-Jefferson Fellow at the State Department, gave a much  appreciated 2 hour summary of his Physics for Policy Makers class. Ken Cecire led the Master Class orientation.

The Master Class was held on April 4, 2014, Nine teachers and twenty-four students attended. KSU Physics hosted a program of demos and hands-on physics activities and we also toured the KSU Nuclear Reactor. Most KSU HEP and Comology graduate students helped with the Master Class activities.   

Bob Peterson hosted the CRD workshop at KSU during 5-7 August 2014. This was attended by 6 teachers wo had a total of 4 cosmic ray detectors.

Penny Blue (Lyons HS) and Renee Teague (Cheney HS) participated in the 2014 QuarkNet Data Camp.

The KSU group remains strong in its eleventh year of existence.  Approximately two dozen teachers participate, a core group of 10 or so regularly, and the rest at the rate of once every other meeting. We continue to specialize in serving small rural high schools throughout the state. Plans for 2014-15 include an early spring Master Class orientation workshop and participation in a Master Class in late spring 2014.




UCSC Abstract 2014 - Lead Shielding of Muons


Y. Takaki, D. Hamersly

This experiment sought to evaluate the effect of lead shielding on muon flux by placing numerous lead bricks between the scintillator detectors. By factoring in multiple variables, the experimenters were able to calculate the expected decrement and compare it to their experimental finding.

Question: Will muons be blocked by lead bricks? If some of them are, how much energy do they lose per layer of lead bricks? We spent the first two weeks planning how we would do an experiment to answer these questions. To learn about shielding effects on muons, we did background research and made estimates of how much energy muons would lose through x centimeters of lead using online sources. Then we were ready to start experimenting.

Setup: We put one muon detector on top of a table and three others on the floor. Then we stacked lead bricks on a platform above the floor detectors and below the table detector. We were using 4 detectors in order to make sure that each event that was recorded by the detectors was actually a muon and not an accident in the PMT (Photomultiplier Tube), which detects photons.

Results: As we hypothesized, the number of muons that made it through the lead was significantly less than the number of muons that reached the detectors when there was no lead. For only one layer of lead (5cm thick), we saw a 15% decrease in the flux rate, or the amount of muons hitting the detectors over time. When we added more layers, there were less dramatic decreases in the flux rate, indicating that the first layer of lead bricks must have knocked out a large portion of the total muon population, and that that large portion was on the low end of the muon energy spectrum.

UCSC Abstract 2014 - Muon Speed Analysis

C. Woods, K. Natividad, J. Rathmann-Bloch

This experiment sought to evaluate the speed of muons by placing scintillators apart and measuring how long of a delay existed between each individual scintillator's triggering. It used the Quarknet DAQ's high-precision clock to confirm trigger differences as low as 1.25 nanoseconds.

Cosmic rays from space penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, and upon interacting, produce pions and kaons, which then decay into muons and other particles. We can detect these muons at the Earth's surface using scintillators and photo-multiplier tubes. Because the muons have vastly different energies, we initially thought that there might be an interesting distribution of their speeds. However, after conducting some background research, we realized that the energy differences we would see had little to no effect on the speed. We placed two detectors seven feet apart vertically and used four-fold coincidences to measure the time difference between the top and bottom detectors. The muons we detected were all traveling extremely close to the speed of light, approximately one foot per nanosecond, thus confirming our hypothesis.

UCSC Abstract 2014 - The Solar Wind's Effect on Muon Flux

D. Rathmann-Bloch

This experiment sought to evaluate the impact of the solar wind on the amount of muons coming in by correlating the rate of muon flux detected in a Quarknet 6000-series Scintillator detector with a) the natural day-night cycle an b) the dynamic solar wind data from NASA's SOHO satellite.

Using two different experimental setups (each running for 64 hours), the experimenter observed no statistically significant correlation between the day-night cycle and the rate of muon flux. He did, however, observe a seemingly statistically significant positive correlation between the muon flux and the real-time solar wind data; nevertheless, that correlation was neither linear nor completely supported by the data. On the setup with the detectors stacked atop one another and pointing directly up at the sky, a stronger visual correlation was observed (71% of data points within one standard deviation; 94% within two). When the Pearson Equation was used to find a correlation, it gave a value of about 0.44 (2 significant figures), which shows a mild positive correlation. On the setup with the detectors separated by a box and pointed toward the ecliptic, the visual correlation was not well shown (65% within one standard deviation; 88% within two). The Pearson value on the second data run showed a very, very weak negative correlation of -0.12. 
Thus, this experiment showed no visible correlation between the day/night cycle and the muon flux. Using all four detectors stacked directly atop one another, it showed a mild positive correlation between the solar wind density and the measured muon flux. Using all four detectors, pointed toward the ecliptic, with a box in between them, the experiment showed no statistically significant correlation.

2014 Annual Report - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Annual Report 2014                                                                   

Mentors: Tony Spadafora & Eric Linder


The LBNL Physics Division hosted its eighth “Physics In and Through Cosmology” workshop for QuarkNet Leadership teachers and high school students. The five day workshop, June 23 to June27, was held at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.  Thirteen high school teachers participated. Eight of the teachers have been active members of QuarkNet for five or more years. Five new teachers joined the group this year.  The QuarkNet Teachers represented public and private high schools in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.  Also participating were 41 high school students and one UC Berkeley undergraduate student supported through the CalTeach (teacher preparation) program. 


The daily format consisted of a hands-on warm-up activity, followed by a presentation.  After the presentations, groups worked on hands-on experiments (e.g. QuarkNet acitivty lead by Ken Cecire using data from ATLAS and calculating Hubble’s constant lead by Sean Fottrell).  Groups also discussed the lecture and toured the following research facilities:  ALS, Molecular Foundry & 88” Cyclotron.  Students designed & carried out experiments with Cosmic Ray Detectors.  Each group consisted of four to five students and one teacher.  After lunch there was another presentation and group work.



The first day focused on getting all participants familiar with concepts & terms in particle physics & cosmology.  This was accomplished through “mini” lectures given by returning QuarkNet teachers & CalTeach student as well as through activities.

Formal presentations included:

Bryan Marten (returning QuarkNet teacher)            Formation of the elements

Damanjit Hundal  (CalTeach Student)                     Waves / BAO

Miles Chen  (returning QuarkNet teacher)               Distance Ladders

Natalie Roe  (director Physics Division)                  Welcome to the lab

Sean Fottrell  (returning QuarkNet teacher)             Gravity: Newtonian to General Relativity

Richard Piccioni (returning QuarkNet teacher)        Relativity & Standard Model

Ken Cecire     ( QuarkNet)                                        Quark Puzzle activity

Chang Hyon Ha  (LBL research Scientist)                Icecube- neutrinos for probing the universe

 Ken Cecire  (QuarkNet)                                            Quarknet activity   - ATLAS  data

Ian Hinchliffe   (LBL research Scientist)                   ATLAS - Higgs and other LHC Physics

Saul Perlmutter  (2011 Nobel Prize winner)              Drop by – talk about science research

Glen Melnik & Sean Fottrell (returning QuarkNet)   Introduction to detectors

Brian Hayden  (LBL research Scientist)                     Supernova cosmology and dark energy

Blake Sherwin  (LBL research Scientist)                    New CMB results

Freija Descamps  (LBL research Scientist)                 SNO on Neutrinos 

Carlos Faham  (LBL research Scientist)                      Dark Matter experiments                

Beth Reid   (LBL research Scientist)                           BOSS large scale structure

Eric Linder  (LBL research Scientist, QuarkNet Mentor)        Q & A session


Students took a pre & post self- evaluation of their knowledge of the concepts in the science standards & some additional concepts from particle physics & cosmology.  The scale was from 1 (none) to 5 (thorough).  The average gain was 1.42.  Concepts with greater than a 2 gain were:

      2.2  As something travels faster in space its length appears contracted.

      2.3 The intensity of light and gravity follow the inverse square law.

      2.3  Cosmology and Particle Physics

      2.3 Super Novea occur during certain large star’s life, serving as a standard candle.

      2.3 There are four fundamental forces which interact through carrier particles shaping the


      2.3  Neutrinos are produced by radioactive decay, in stars, accelerators, and reactors.

      2.3  Both matter & antimatter exist but the visible Universe is mainly matter.

      2.4  Quantum fluctuations in the CMB lead to stars, galaxies and clusters.

      2.4  Higgs bosons allow fundamental particles to have mass.

      2.5  Scientist use various techniques (Cosmic distance ladder) to determine distances in


      2.6  Quantum mechanics uses probabilities to describe subatomic particles.

      2.6  The Cosmic Microwave background is the baby picture of the Universe when matter

                      and energy decoupled.

      2.8  Scientist have proposed various theories such as super symmetry & extra dimensions, to

                       describe the Universe.

      2.9  Fermions follow the Pauli Exclusion Principle and make up matter.     

      3.0 Baryon acoustic oscillations are used as a standard ruler in cosmology