Lightning Detection and Triggering for the TARA Experiment

Names: Bennett Haase-Divine, Lawrence Freestate High School
Pierce Giffin, Shawnee Mission East High School
Research Teacher Mentor: James Deane, Ottawa High School, Ottawa, KS
Research Mentor: Prof. Dave Besson, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Purpose: The purpose of our project was to accurately detect flashes of lightning as well as determining their approximate position and time of strike so that other devices involved in the TARA project can study and collect data from flashes of lightning while they’re still striking.


Methods: For light detection, we used several photoresistors and an arduino board that read the voltage off of each resistor. If the voltage was high enough, the program would identify it as a lightning strike. As soon as a flash of lightning is detected, a signal is sent out to alert other devices that lightning has struck. To calculate the angle the strike occurred relative to the device, we see how high the voltages are on each photoresistor relative to one another and weight each  voltage with the photoresistor’s assigned angle. After a flash of lightning is detected, a microphone starts listening to the environment for the thunder. Once it picks up a loud sound, it calculates how far away the strike of lightning occurred. After all the data is collected, it is stored on a micro SD card inside of the device.


Results: Almost all of the necessary operations work properly with a simulated strobe machine. The device is capable of detecting nearly 100% of simulated flashes and calculating the correct angle within about 10%. The signal is capable of being sent out to other devices within 5 milliseconds. The device can accurately identify two flashes of lightning within 20 milliseconds of each other. Since a single lightning strike flashes once then flashes again about 30 milliseconds later (and can repeat several more times), the device is capable of detecting a strike of lightning on the first flash then sending out a signal to other devices to collect data on other flashes. The sound device works accurately. We are able to calculate the distance within 10 meters. Without simulating with actual lightning, it is unsure as to how far away a lightning strike could occur without being detected by the device. All of the data is able to be stored on a micro SD card. However, problems arose with opening multiple files; therefore, all the data must be stored on a single file.


Meaning to Larger Project: This detector and the directional and ranging data it provides will permit better triggering and data collection for portions of the TARA experiment.


Future Research: The lightning detection device is nearly ready to be implemented. The device still needs to be field tested and, if possible, store the data on multiple files. If quicker and more precise measurements are needed, this project could be redesigned using a time-to-digital converter instead of the Arduino Uno currently being used. However, a new code would have to be implemented.



We appreciate the assistance and guidance of the following students during this project.

  • Steven Prochyra, University of Kansas

  • Samantha Conrad, University of Kansas

Quarked! Particle Physics Games

Names: Austin A. Irvine, Jefferson West High School, Meriden, KS

Zach L. Harris, Lawrence Free State High School, Lawrence, KS

Research Teacher Mentor: James Deane, Ottawa High School, Ottawa, KS

Research Mentors: Prof. Philip Baringer, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Prof. Alice Bean, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Purpose: The goal of the work in Quarked is to make educational particle physics games primarily for grade school students, but can be played by people of all ages. Quarked is the foundation for influencing kids and teenagers to become scientists.  Quarked is an extremely important part of QuarkNet because it allows students learn about particle physics along with making it possible for others to have the same opportunity at no cost.  Quarked is a fantastic program that involves, not only learning, but it also involves teaching other how science can be fun.

Methods: We learned to program in ActionScript and to animate 2d objects in Adobe Flash. Once sample code was created, we tested the code by playing segments of the games and refining the code to produce the desired gameplay.

Results: We wrote hundreds to thousands of lines of code, and we created countless loops and statements inside of our code.  We created step-by-step animations and tested our games out at least fifty times a day.  Additionally, we worked on two games that are both very close to being finished.  One of the games in named Mass Matters and the other game is named Tracker.  The Mass Matters game involves shooting quarks and leptons through the higgs field to see their interactions with Higgs Boson.  The goal of the Mass Matters game is to determine the mass order of the particles depending on the amount of interactions with Higgs Boson.  The Tracker game involves shooting electrons and positrons through an array of detectors.  The goal of the Tracker game is determine where the particle will go depending the type of particle and its energy level.

Meaning to Larger Project: The larger project is the collection of games and activities at the website. Our work contributed to the development of games that are near production and those that are in the early stages of development. The website is intended to be a site that reaches students at early ages and helps them to understand some basic ideas of particle physics while showing them that thinking about science can be fun and rewarding.

Future Research: The next step in this project will be to finish the current games, Tracker and Mass Matters.  There are still a few issues with the first level of Mass Matters, but they are miniscule problems.  The rest of the work for the two games mainly entails finishing both of the second levels in the games.  After that, the main goal should be to start transferring all of the games to both Android and iOS devices.  Once all of the games are on more devices, they will be accessible to larger crowds people.

We appreciate the assistance and guidance of the following students during this project.

  • Patrick Shields, University of Kansas


Research and Development of an Android App

Student Researcher: Lila Alvarado, Lawrence Free State High School, Lawrence KS

Research Teacher Mentor: James Deane, Ottawa High School, Ottawa KS

Research Mentors: Prof. Dave Besson, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS


Purpose: The purpose of the Android app is to display meteor detection data in an easy-to-use format for use in an educational environment, such as a high school physics classroom.


Methods: To develop the app, we had to learn the variation of the programming language Java specific to Android Studio.


Results: Unfortunately, the assignment proved too complex for the time allotted, and the app is left unfinished, although we did make significant progress. Under Hannah’s instruction, I worked through several Android Studio tutorials, covering the basics of creating an app, the details of working with specific activities within the app, and creating graphics within activities. After completing those, I mainly served as a second pair of eyes for Hannah’s code, and helped research solutions to any problems she encountered.


Meaning to Larger Project: It is anticipated that completion of this app will create a resource to help teachers and university researchers bring research data and methods into pre-college classrooms.


Future Research: Picking up from where the app is now, someone experienced in Java and Android Studio could continue work on the unfinished code until the app properly displays the data, and put it to use in a high school classroom for educational purposes.



We appreciate the assistance and guidance of the following students during this project.

  • Hannah Gibson, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS

  • Steven Prochyra, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS


LSM9DS0 Chip Calibration for Antarctic HiCal Balloon Experiment

Names: Margaret Lockwood, Lawrence High School, Lawrence KS

Research Teacher Mentor: James K. Deane, Ottawa High School, Ottawa KS

Research Mentor: Prof. Dave Besson, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS

Purpose:The LSM9DS0 chip calibration project  is part of the much larger Antarctic HiCal Balloon Experiment. This experiment focuses on the detection of cosmic rays to learn more about neutrinos and protons. These particles can be detected by sending showers of radio frequency radiation. The main balloon, ANITA, detects the reflected radio signals created by an air-proton collision. To detect particles successfully and learn more about wave relationships, the  surface roughness of the ice is studied using HiCal. HiCal is a smaller balloon which trails ANITA as it emits kiloVolt scale signals that are measured by both ANITA directly and in the surface reflection. The LSM9DS0 chip will be used to keep track of the orientation of the HiCal balloon relative to ANITA. The chip needs to be calibrated to give accurate and precise data.  

Methods: The chip has a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer, all which need calibration.  The LSM9DS0 chip is connected and run on an Arduino as it outputs data from the sensors. First the hardware was soldered and set up to communicate with the computer. Since the LSM9DS0 data is a stream of numbers, a visualization of the data would aid in calibration and make the data easier to interpret. This was done by connecting Processing to Arduino. After attempting to use a tutorial to display a graphic on processing, it was apparent that something was wrong with the 3D display in the Java environment.  After a lot of troubleshooting, it was decided to move forward without the 3D graphic. Mimicking the original graphic sketch, a 2D sketch of an ellipse was created to change the height, change the width and rotate the ellipse according with the pitch, yaw and roll values. This graphic was helpful but distracted from the calibration goal.

The minima and maxima of the data were found with an Arduino sketch and were used to calibrate the accelerometer and magnetometer. Some issues surfaced; first regarding moving the chip too fast hence causing the accelerometer min/max to be impacted by forces other than gravity. Secondly, the magnetism from the computer affects the magnetometer data. To deal with these, the accelerometer was moved slowly at the approximant minimums and maximums of all three axises. Then using this data, histograms were made to find the absolute peaks. These values are then scaled in the code using the map function. Similarly to the accelerometer, the magnetometer minimums and maximums of all three axes were found in relation to magnetic north and the magnetometer was moved as far from the computer a possible.

To calibrate the gyroscope a turntable with adjustable speeds was used to compare the actual angular velocity with data from the gyroscope. This produced a factor that could modify the gyroscope data to improve accuracy.  The speed of the turntable was found by using a stopwatch and then converting the value to degrees per second. Dividing the measured angular speed by the gyroscope’s indicated angular speed produced the correction factor.

Results:The calibration was moderately successful. Using the stated methods, the data from gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer is considerably more accurate . Out of the three, the magnetometer is the least accurate due to the magnetism in the lab from computers. The chip is not completely ready for launch, but the calibration project made progress. The methods to calibrate the chip are accurate and precise.

Meaning to Larger Project: Proper calibration and testing of the LSM9DS0 chip will permit monitoring of the HiCal balloon package orientation and support the analysis of signals generated by HiCal.

Future Research:A few additional things will be needed to completely finish the calibration. The heading of the chip needs to be tested for accuracy and precision. The already completed calibration should be tested over time to check for drift in the sensors as well as recheck the accuracy of the calibration. For launch a housing for the chip,  a power supply, and way to store data will be needed. A battery, for example, could be used instead of  the  computer for power. Connecting an external drive could be used to store data.  Possible things to consider are ways to make sure the chip is still calibrated after launch and figuring out a reference point (like the sun).

We appreciate the assistance and guidance of the following students during this project.

  • Jessica Stockham

  • Steven Prochyra

Idaho State University QuarkNet Activities for 2015

Idaho State University QuarkNet Activities for 2015


The eleventh annual ISU QuarkNet Summer Institute was held June 8 - 12, 2015.  QuarkNet veterans Robert Franckowiak of Logan, Dr. Steven Millward of Grace, Idaho, Jodie Hale and Michael Matusek of Pocatello, Idaho, Keith Quigley of Roy Utah, and Carolyn Bennett of Dumas, Texas participated this year, along with QuarkNet newbies Geoffrey WIlliams of Pocatello, Idaho, and Enrique Arce-Larreta of Salt Lake City, UT.  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 lead discussions for ways to use the CRDs in the classroom and availability of web/online resources.  Newer attendees were paired with more seasoned members as each group brainstormed a research topic, then collected, uploaded, and viewed data. Troubleshooting some of the more frequent issues were also explored. 


Online collaboration was used to show the ease of programs such as Skype and Vidyo.  These programs allowed guest collaborators/speakers Ken Cecire, of Notre Dame, and later in the week a Q&A  with Rolf Landua and Konrad Jende, from CERN.  Other discussions referenced the online tools for the Masterclasses and CERN educational videos.   The Associate Teachers uploaded data for analysis, and posted 5 posters on the QuarkNet web site.  They also prepared lesson plans for their schools to use with the cosmic ray detectors. 


Two lectures were given during the workshop.  The topics were Current Research at the IAC, presented by Jon Stoner, and Current Research at CERN by Robert Franckowiak.


During the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015, all five of the Associate Teachers who participated in the 2014 Summer Institute had at least one detector for the whole academic year to introduce their students to particle physics, with Robert Frankowiak using two cosmic ray detectors. All eight Associate Teachers who participated in the 2015 Summer Institute will use one or two of the eight ISU detectors in this fashion in the fall of 2015 and spring of 2016.

Fourth Generation Quarks in Generated Data Analysis

Fourth Generation Quarks in Generated Data Analysis

Names: Triton Wolfe, Olathe North High School
Christopher Fenton, Olathe North High School

Research Teacher Mentor: James Deane, Ottawa High School, Ottawa, KS

Research Mentor: Prof. Philip Baringer, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

Purpose: The discovery of fourth generation quarks could provide support for supersymmetry which could help explain the low mass of the Higgs boson, the imbalance of matter vs. antimatter, the effects of dark matter, and the origin of mass.

Methods: We learned to use C++ in ROOT for our data analysis, following tutorials provided by fellow students. We had to teach ourselves C++ structure in ROOT functions. We also learned how to use MadGraph to generate Monte Carlo data for specific particle decays. We created cuts for generated t` decays with the module having a mass of 750GeV and 1000GeV. We first generated simulated decays in MadGraph using the commands p p _ t t~, (t _ b w+, w+ _ j j), (t~ _ b~ w-, w- _ j j), and then used the macros of the resulting files creating limits like Particle_Status == 2 (Stable particles), Particle_Pt > 15 to eliminate lower energy events that could not be decays of t`, and abs(Particle_Eta) <= 5 to select for lower Eta values that would indicate higher energy t` decays. Macros with those limitations were created for Number of BJets per event, Number of Jets per event, dR vs. Number of events, Eta vs. Pt, Forward Jets, Ht vs. Number of events, and Pt vs. Number of Jets.

Results: The developed macros were compared to the macros of the t` generated files with masses of 750GeV and 1000GeV, setting specific cut values to apply to the t` generated files. The cuts were then applied to determine what events remained. The remaining events were possible places where a t` particle could have existed. After developing these macros and running analyses on the generated files, we now possess most of the tools and knowledge we need to work on genuine CERN data and search for fourth generation quarks, specifically the t` particle.

Meaning to Larger Project: The search for ultra-heavy fourth-generation particles such as the t` is part of the investigation of the frontiers of particle physics. Developing and testing cut values with Monte Carlo data prepares us to analyze real data and narrow down the candidates for the t` fourth-generation quark.

Future Research: Once we receive data from CERN we will be able to remove the background and see how many events survive our cuts. Data sets that have the most surviving events will then be searched for t` particles.

We appreciate the assistance and guidance of the following students during this project.

  • Eilish Gibson: Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas (KU QuarkNet Alumna)

  • Emily Smith: Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas

  • Erich Schmitz: Graduate Student, University of Kansas


Wayne State University 2015 QuarkNet Annual Report

QuarkNet at UC Riverside

U Penn Abstract - H. Jois

At the beginning of QuarkNet, I knew I wanted to do something with hardware, since Drew from the 2014 program had told me about it. However, when I first began to understand the scintillators, chambers, and electronics, I was shocked at all the learning I had to do. Despite this, I fully feel that on finishing this program, I have learned much more than I intended to.


            The first week at QuarkNet seems like a blur in my memory, but I’ll try my best to elaborate. After safety training and a host of other formalities, I began to learn about the equipment and programming with the other students. While my initial date with Verilog did not go very easily, I was determined to understand it more thoroughly. I began studying Verilog and computer logic at home for some time after work, and after a few weeks, I felt that I could understand the Verilog code my peers were doing better. In addition, towards the end of the program, I had to learn elements of Python in order to improve the Raspberry Pi’s data collection method. It felt really good to not just concentrate on hardware throughout the program and instead put on a different hat and continue to learn.

            Speaking of hardware, it was the main focus of my experience at QuarkNet. I came in never having taken an electronics course at school, and not even having Electricity and Magnetism in high school physics class. Therefore, many of the hardware topics that were brought up by Mitch, Rick, and others were relatively foreign. Through the process of asking questions and writing their comments down, I was able to understand concepts like grounding, impedance, scintillation, capacitance, and others. After the week 4 progress update, I had a bit of a breakdown when I didn’t think I was learning enough about the electronics and instrumentation to truly understand how the chambers worked. But after consulting with Mitch and Rick, I was able to pay more attention to their comments and learn about the aforementioned concepts in greater detail. Finally, I can’t finish discussing hardware without mentioning my soldering experiences. Although I had experience soldering before with my robotics team, I had never used the technique on such a small scale. After attending soldering school with Godwin, I became more and more versed in the art of soldering our tube wires back together. It was an enjoyable process for me, and I did get to practice a skill that I can now bring back to my robotics team.

            Now that I have learned and experienced so much, I feel that I should at least take something away and be able to use those learnings during my daily school life. Other than soldering skills for robotics, I am pleased that the electrical concepts that I learned will help me in my physics course this coming school year. In addition, knowing some new programming languages will help me as we move forward in a technologically diverse world. Thanks to Mitch, Rick, Marc, Steve, Godwin, Walt, and everyone else who made QuarkNet 2015 one of the most enjoyable and interesting summers of my life thus far.

U Penn QuarkNet Program

This year we were fortunate enough to have our two High School teachers,  Mark Baron and Steve Polgar back with us again who are instrumental in keeping the program organized and maintaining an even day to day flow in our six week program for the selected four (of 16 applicant) student researchers.  We started on June 26 and ended on July 31st.    Before the program officially started at the end of May we sent each student a copy of  The Particle Odyssey by Frank Close  to give them a background in the beginnings of experimental sub-atomic physics and also sent links to several references on  FPGA programming, a suggestion made by  the 2014 Quarknet group to help prepare them for the upcoming work on a cosmic ray tracking tower  based on a plastic scintillator trigger and multi-plane Proportional Drift Tube (PDT) array used to provide position data for detected tracks.  As usual the students arrived to find a box of parts and no instruction booklet.   Most of the tubes are prewired and the front end electronics consists of ASDQ cards re-cycled from the FNAL CDF open tracker.   The outputs of the ASDQ cards are sent to a transceiver that translates the differential discriminator outputs from the ASDQ to logic signals sent to a readout FPGA for time of arrival determination and subsequent transfer on to a Raspberry pi computer. As they were constructing the tower and validating the performance of the sensors we provided lectures on sensor signal processing as well as introducing them to physics research underway at Penn through seminars given by professors, post docs and grad students.   Once again this immersion research experience was well received our students who, by the end of the program were very close to being able to reconstruct tracks from the cosmic ray triggered PDT hits.  This year’s group added LEDs to the FPGA board that were programmed to turn on when a scintillator coincidence was sensed.  They were successful in transmitting PDT data from the FPGA to the Raspberry pi microcomputer that they programmed to perform the track fitting.  In their own assessment the only reason that they didn’t get to use their track fitting programs on real data was that they decided to start from scratch on the FPGA programming and it took longer than they counted on. In the last week of the program we took a one day trip to Brookhaven National Lab for a tour and met with the QuarkNet students at BNL being mentored by Helio Takai’s group.   While at BNL our students took an interest in the long term cosmic ray rate logging experiment being undertaken by the BNL group.   We had some discussion about starting a similar effort at Penn but it was close enough to the end of the program that we didn’t really get very far with the idea.   

D. Rostovtsev in the first paragraph of his abstract about his QuarkNet experience summed up his experience as follows:

“For me, QuarkNet was a series of firsts.  First time learning about cosmic rays, first time using an FPGA, first time using a Raspberry Pi, first time soldering with a microscope, first time seeing scintillators and drift tubes and first time sitting in on lectures in a lecture hall.  Also, being a sophomore, it was my first paycheck, first nine to five and first debit card.”


Mitch Newcomer