Syracuse University QuarkNet Summer 2015 Workshop Annual Report

Syracuse University QuarkNet mentors Steve Blusk and Mitch Soderberg organized a 4-day long workshop, held in the Physics Department from Monday, July 13 - Thursday, July 16. The workshop featured a combination of MasterClass activities and explorations with cosmic-ray detectors. This year there were 3 participants of the workshop (Joshua Buchman, Michael Madden, and Justin Shute), with the lower attendance attributable to several of our regular participants being unable to attend. In spite of the low attendance, many fruitful activities were pursued, and the participating teachers expressed continued enthusiasm about the QuarkNet program.

Days 1-2 of the workshop were led by Shane Wood from QuarkNet, who guided our teachers through the CMS MasterClass. Mr. Wood created a webpage with an agenda for these days of the workshop, which can be found at: /page/ cms-data-workshop-syracuse. Activities conducted during these days were:

  • Presentation by Mitch Soderberg on the CMS experiment and they physics of interest post-Higgs discovery.

  • Rolling with Rutherford and Quark Workbench “hands-on” activities.

  • Investigations with CMS data and web-based tools.

  • Discussion and development of implementation plans.


Days 3-4 of the workshop were led by Mitch Soderberg, and focused on explorations with cosmic-ray detectors that the participating teachers had built in prior years. Activities pursued during these days included:

  • Using detectors to search for “shower” events, where detectors are operated in an array geometry as opposed to a stacked geometry. Data from these searches were uploaded to the e-lab site, and subsequent analysis was performed to look for coincidence of shower events between different detectors.
  • Using detectors to measure the speed of cosmic muons. This was accomplished by separating pairs of scintillator paddles by 2 meters, and attempting to measure the time delay between 4-fold coincident events. The teachers found that the e-lab site didn’t seem to have tools for this type of investigation, so they developed their own method for importing the raw text files from the detectors into an Excel spreadsheet and then determining the time delay. Subsequent inquiry led to a version of the Java software from Purdue with a “Muon Lifetime” component that made this activity much simpler. 

  • Measurement of the muon lifetime. 


NDQC CMS Data Group

Patrick Mooney (Trinity School), Jill Ziegler (Hamilton West HS), M. Gillen (LaLumiere School), N. Schrock (Bethany Christian)

This summer the Notre Dame QuarkNet Center’s CMS Data Group continued its analysis of CMS data. In particular, we continued our analysis of 500K high Pt isolated muon events begun last summer. We looked for evidence of ttbar systems that decay semileptonicly. We created tri-jet invariant mass plots and investigated the impact of a variety of cuts on signal/background. Among the cuts we tried were high missing Pt in the event and the likelihood that one or more of the jets were b quarks. The number of entries in the tri-jet invariant mass plot was relatively small so even non-aggressive cuts eliminated most of the signal. We will continue our studies next summer.

NDQC Astrophysics Group

Aaron McNeely (Bremen High School), Dan Walsh (John Adams High School), K. Dyer (Adams High School), J. Isaacson (Adams High School), A. Reilly (St. Joseph's High School)
During the summer of 2015, the Notre Dame QuarkNet Astrophysics group studied AG Pegasi, a symbiotic variable star. On four separate evenings of observing, the group obtained CCD images of the star and its surrounding field using an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope located at the University of Notre Dame, Jordan Hall. The images were used to extract data on the brightness of the star. AG Pegasi was undergoing an eruption in brightness, the first observed since 1885. The data was submitted to the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) to be disseminated to the world's variable star researchers. 

NDQC Biocomplexity

Mike Sinclair (Kalamazoo Math/Science Center), Helene Dauerty (Elkhart Central High School), C. Norman (Riley High School)
Biocomplexity,also known as computational biomodeling – an interdisciplinary field which blends biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, and mathematics – is a new area of research which can be readily incorporated into the high school science and mathematics curriculum.  In this project, we have developed several hands-on exercises and a basic website designed to describe the nature of biomodeling as well as offer classroom activities that can fit into any course, and are illustrative of the kinds of research currently under examination at a number of colleges and universities.

NDQC - The Use of Cosmic Ray Detectors and the Effect of Elevation on Total Muon Counts

Cosmic Ray Detectors

Ben Mullins (Marian High School), Jeff Chorny (Lakeshore High School), K. Anderson (Bremen High School), C. Peterson (home school)

When charged particles from outside Earth’s atmosphere reach Earth, the particles collide with the atoms found in Earth’s atmosphere and separate into subatomic particles, such as muons. Despite having an average lifetime of only 2.2 microseconds, muons can reach the surface of Earth. Muons can be detected with certain counters, photomultiplier tubes, and a detector. In this study, cosmic ray detectors were used to observe the effect elevation has on total muon activity. When detectors are placed at low points of natural elevation, high points of natural elevation, and taken on airplane flights, muon activity changes. Less activity was recorded near a local riverbank than on an elevated hilltop. The greatest change in muon activity was observed when detecting rates during an airplane trip. As expected, the results showed a significance increase in muon activity at the highest elevation.



NDQC - Project GRAND Gamma Ray Astrophysics at Notre Dame

Cal Swartzendruber (Bethany Christian), Susan Sakimoto (Riley High School),
H. Bradbury (New Buffalo High School), S. Grisoli (St. Joseph's High School)

GRAND is an array of position sensitive proportional wire chambers (PWCs) located at 86.2 deg W, 41.7 deg N at an elevation of 220 m north of the University of Notre Dame campus.  The 64 detector stations have a total of 82 sq-m of muon detector area.  The geometry of the PWC detector stations (four stacked pairs of x and y planes) allows the measurement of charged particle tracks in two orthogonal planes to within less than one deg, on average.  Muons are 99% differentiated from electrons by means of a 51 mm thick steel plate above the last pair of x and y planes.  An overview of the operation of Project GRAND is given. 

U Cincinnati QuarkNet Annual Report 2015

Speed of a Muon

Mohit Bansil(North Farmington High School) & Alex Johnson(Woodhaven High School)

Teacher Mentor: Mike Niedballa(Michigan Collegiate High School)

Research Metor: Rob Harr(Wayne State University)

Our experiment is designed to find the speed of a muon. We set up 4 stacked detectors and recorded the time that a muon took to pass through the detectors and used it to calculate the average speed. The final results showed that the average speed of a muon is about .95 times the speed of light. The accepted speed of a muon is .996 times the speed of light, which means our data had a 4.6% error.  This could easily be caused by unknown variables such as multiple muons hitting or delay times between the muon passing and the photon being detected.

Surface Area vs. Rate of Shower Events

Christopher Coulter(Woodhaven High School) and Nathaniel Lee(Roeper Upper School)

Teacher Mentor: Mike Niedballa(Michigan Collegiate High School)

Research Mentor: Robert Harr(Wayne State University)

The purpose of this experiment was to determine the relationship between the rate of cosmic ray showers with varying surface area of detection. We used the 6600 CRMD equipment from QuarkNet to conduct the experiment. We placed detectors in a square configuration and varied the side length of the square to change the surface area of detection. The smaller area trials picked up small showers and larger showers, so the resulting data was the integral of the rate of showers with respect to area. This is why we had to take the negative derivative of the best fit line of the original result to find the actual rate of shower at a specific area. The ultimate results supported the idea that smaller showers are more common because the negative derivative showed an inverse relationship. In the future this experiment could be tested with a greater distance between detectors and run for longer periods of time to possibly determine the average surface area of cosmic ray showers. 

How Angle Affects Muon Flux

Pranathi Locula(Troy High School) and Sadia Farha(Frontier International Academy)

Teacher Mentor: Mike Niedballa(Michigan Collegiate High School)

Research Mentor: Rob Harr (Wayne State University)

The purpose of our research is to determine the effect of changing the angle of the cosmic ray detectors on muon flux. By changing the angle at which the detectors are pointed, we are changing the amount of atmosphere that the muons have to pass through and the direction that the muons have to travel in in order to hit the detector. Thus, our hypothesis is that as we increase the angle from horizontal the muon flux will increase. To change the angle at which the detectors are held, we used a wooden telescope with racks to place the detectors in. We secured the telescope at a different angle for each study and then analyzed our data. After completing our research, we found that as the angle  increased, the amount of muon flux also increased. We concluded that this is because at a lower angle, the muons have to pass through more atmosphere, making it harder for them to reach the detector, resulting in less flux. At a higher angle, the muons have to pass through less of the atmosphere to reach the detectors, resulting in more flux.