Rochester Annual Report


Mentor: Kevin McFarland

Our 2015 meeting (July 27 – July 31) had a primary focus: to present to high school teachers classroom activities (developed in 2010 using MINERvA data) and the classroom website (developed in 2012 and revised/refined in 2014). Prof. Kevin McFarland served as mentor and organizer of the program.  Ms. Carol Hoffman and Mr. Paul Sedita, both from Rochester, participated in the working group and were the lead-teacher presenters to 7 local high school physics teachers (Peter Apps, Robert Enck, Michael Madden, Stephanie Mitz-Miller, Amy Rotoli, Robert Szalapski and Michael Terry).

The overall objective of this project is to give students a chance to access particle physics data and to ask their own questions and to 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.

During the five days, the teachers were introduced to the classroom website ( and were given the opportunity to perform the activities as if they were students in their classroom. As the activities proceeded, the teachers gave valuable insight and recommendations to the lead-teachers as to how the website could be improved in regard to user-friendliness and issues that still remained with some links.  This was, in essence, the secondary focus of the meetings: to identify the remaining weaknesses in some of the materials and address those, while also looking at ways to improve the “packaging” of the materials to make it easier for teachers to take the materials from the website and develop a lesson plan tailored to their classroom.  The teachers also heard presentations on various aspects of particle physics; several of the teachers are new to teaching particle physics.

Additional meetings (before and after the actual workshop) involved the lead teachers, Kevin McFarland and Prof. Nathaniel Tagg (Otterbein University). They were used to discuss daily presentations and areas on the website that still needed to be improved.

Kansas State University QuarkNet Center, Annual Report 2014-2015

The K-State group held a workshop and a Master Class in the last fiscal year and 4 teachers visited SURF. 

The Master Class was held on March 27, 2015 and was attended by 7 teachers and 16 students. KSU Physics hosted a short program of demos and hands-on physics activities and we also toured the KSU Nuclear Reactor. Most KSU HEP and Cosmology graduate students helped with the Master Class activities.

A workshop on Cosmology, Dark Matter and Neutrino Physics was held at KSU on July 6, 2015. This was attended by 5 teachers. Four of these teachers visited SURF for the rest of that week. This was a very useful trip for the teachers.

On other fronts, KSU QuarkNet teachers continued to avail themselves of national QuarkNet and other HEP-related opportunities seeded by QuarkNet. Curt Parry and James Neff participated in the 2015 Data Camp at Fermilab.

The KSU group remains strong in its twelvth 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 2015-2016 include an early spring Master Class orientation workshop and participation in a Master Class in late spring 2016.

Rice University/University of Houston QuarkNet Center Annual Report

During the academic year 2014-2015 our QuarkNet center sponsored six “Saturday Physics” events.  On September 27, 2014, Professor George Reiter of UH presented “Lunar Solar Power” to an audience of about 100 high school students and teachers on the UH campus. On October 15, 2014, Professor Frank Toffoletto of Rice U presented “The Physics of Sound and Music” on the UH campus. On November 15, 2014, Professor Gemunu Gunaratne of UH presented “Asking the Right Questions: Random and Chaotic Motions, Patterns, and Networks” on the UH campus. On February 7, 2015 Professor Lawrence Pinsky of UH presented “Particle Physics and the Standard Model” on the UH campus.  On March 7, 2015, Professor Mini Das of UH presented “Frontiers in X-ray Phase Contrast Imaging” on the UH campus. On April 18, 2015, Professor Pat Reiff of Rice U presented “Magnetism, the Aurora and MMS” on the UH campus.

Our site provided Summer Research Fellowships to eight students: Asta Wu and Brian-Tinh Vu from Dulles High School; Justin Castillo from St. Thomas High School; Nicholas Tong from Elkins High School; Mojdeh Yadollahikhales from Bellaire High School; Nishaa Iqbal from DeBakey High School for Health Professions; Hope Willenborg and Joseph Palakapilly from Clements High School; and fellowships to two teachers: Alain Harvey from Jersey Village High School, and Sanjay Gupta from The Summit High School. We received about 40 applications for the 8 student positions and 2 applications for the teacher positions. The student fellowships lasted six weeks and the teacher fellowships lasted eight weeks starting June 15. The fellows were also treated to four luncheon seminars by professors, Kouri, Chu, Pinsky, and Meen.

A one-week workshop was held on the Rice campus from June 22-26, 2015. We had 13 teachers in attendance each day. Robert Baker from Quarknet visited us the first two days of the workshop.  Each morning we had talks on topics of interest. Marj Corcoran talked about outstanding problems in particle physics and the Mu2e Experiment. Jason Hafner, a physics professor at Rice, talked about his research in biophysics. Jason also talked about his experience with videotaping his introductory physics lectures and offering an online course to the general public (very successful!). Stephan Bradshaw, also a physics professor at Rice, talked about his research in solar physics. Lisa Whitehead from the University of Houston talked about her work in neutrino physics. One of the teachers, Karen Hampton, gathered the slides from all the talks and set up a Google Drive web site so that the talks would be available to everyone.

During the afternoon we worked on the cosmic ray detectors. We had a total of six detectors, including two that had been returned to QuarkNet because they were not being used. All six detectors were up and running by the end of the workshop. On the last day two of the detectors took data in shower mode simultaneously. We intend to look for coincidences in this data between the two detectors, which were on opposite sides of the room. 

Maikel Garcia's detector was returned to Rice in the spring of 2015, since he had left teaching. Robert Sullivan, one of the QuarkNet regulars, worked with Maikel's detector, which was working very well by the end of the workshop.  He took this detector to use in his school. The second detector which had been returned to Rice was taken back to Fermilab by Marj Corcoran in July. 

Two of the teachers who are regular workshop attendees (Julia Bell and Linda Bazard) attended the Data Camp at Fermilab in July.

Submitted by Marj Corcoran and Robert Dubois

Amount of Shower events vs. Time of day

By: Kevin Dietz(Grosse Pointe South) and Evan Croft(Fraser High School)

Teacher: Mike Niedballa (Michigan Collegiate High School)

Research mentor: Robert Harr (Wayne State University)


            Our purpose was to find if there is any pattern in the frequency of shower events per hour throughout the day. To test this, we set up our detectors on a table parallel to the ground. We found the frequencies of events in one hour bins.  We then averaged the frequency of events for each hour and looked for any patterns in the average frequency. The data is consistent and shows no obvious trend. Possible future experiments could look for patterns in muon showers with respect to atmospheric pressure or other phenomena.

Speed of a Muon

Lueda Shemitraku (Troy High School), Alexander Quinn (Greenhills School)

Mike Niedballa ( Michigan Collegiate High School)

Robert Harr (Wayne State University)


The purpose of our research to measure any offset between the paddles to accurately measure the speed of a muon. To measure the offset we conducted 4 tests, testing paddles 0 and 1, and paddles 2 and 3. We first staked 0 and 1, collected data, then switched them. After running a shower study we found out there is an offset of .3667 between them. We performed the same test but on paddles 2 and 3. For those paddles we found that they both matched up with 0 offset. Since we knew the accuracy of the paddles we could then measure the speed of a muon. We added 1.5 m distance between the paddles and found for 1 and 0, speed of .1881569 m/nanosec.For 2 and 3 we found a speed of .31129567 m/nanosec  Possible labs from this study could be measuring the time delay of not just 0 and 1, and 2 and 3 but all the combinations possible.


Muon Directional and Angular Flux Study

Garrett Weidig (Grosse Pointe South HS), Kristopher Mortensen (Groves High School)

Mike Niedballa (Michigan Collegiate High School)

Robert Harr (Wayne State University)


The purpose of the research was to find a pattern in the direction and angle of which muons enter and hit our atmosphere.  To test this, we set up a telescope, a device used to separate cosmic ray detectors and also to keep them in alinement, so that it could be maneuvered to face North, South, East, and West and also pivot in the middle to make angles of 0, 30, 60, and 90 degrees. From there, we set the coincidence level to 2 and started recording data for each direction at each angle.  After this, flux studies were ran and our results showed that for all channels in all directions the ideal angle to detect muons is at 30 degrees from the vertical (60 from the horizontal).  Of the data involved with the 30 degrees, there were an overwhelming amount of hits coming from the North and the West.  This result could have been the result of a faulty voltmeter which would then lead to faulty volt settings in the experiments.  These results (the heavy favoring of the North) could be suspected of being this way because of the magnetic field.  For later experiments, we suggest that they are conducted in different parts of the world where the magnetic field is stronger or weaker.


Staging of Robotic Arm for Use in Testing Chips for Use in ATLAS Detector

Testing of Transistors on Irradiated Microchips

Experimental Test of Capacitance Formula for Parallel-Plate Capacitors Obtained from Gauss’s Law

Test of Multiwire Chamber To Be Used for Cosmic Ray Detection