Commissioning a Cosmic Ray Muon Detector for Cosmic Ray Radio Wave Research

Names: Brittany Crossen,  Ottawa High School, Ottawa, KS

Ardrian Tidwell, Insight School of Kansas, Olathe, KS

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

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

Purpose: We are building apparatus to help us detect and characterize radio wave emission from cosmic ray impacts in the upper atmosphere and the particle showers they create. As part of this we learned how to use and operate a Cosmic Ray (Muon) Detector, or CR(M)D, for the purpose of detecting and analyzing showers produced by cosmic rays. The ultimate goal is to find the correlation between cosmic ray showers and cosmic ray generated radio waves. It is important to ensure that our system only triggers on events that are extremely likely to be muons from cosmic ray showers, and that the trigger rate is compatible with the radio digitization hardware.

Methods: we began with a partially assembled CRMD. Several issues were discovered, including a PMT which did not operate at the same frequency as the others at the same tube supply voltage. We were able to calibrate this tube at a higher voltage, and it seems to operate and gives expected results compared to the other tubes. We also spent some time familiarizing ourselves with the computer commands necessary to communicate with and control the various settings of the Digital Acquisition board (DAQ). However, the commands and language were eventually deciphered and new avenues of data acquisition were opened.

Several pieces of hardware were used jointly to achieve data collection, from the QuarkNet Data Acquisition Board (DAQ) to the individual detectors. We used Ubuntu linux and the SCREEN program to connect, control, and collect data from the DAQ. Some of the commands for changing settings on the detector were discovered in the process of troubleshooting.

Results: We have evaluated multiple paddle configurations and settings to properly trigger the radio receiver and radio data acquisition part of the experiment. However, further testing is needed to evaluate more configuations and determine optimal settings. For this reason, more data in different scintillator paddle configurations is being collected and analyzed to reduce the trigger rate to a frequency where the radio wave detector and acquisition system can operate (around 50 triggers per second).

We are adjusting the following variables: coincidence number, gate width (the time window during which the detectors need to be activated, starting from the first detector’s activation), threshold level (the “strength” of the signal from a detector), and the geometry of the detector paddles.

The project is still incomplete, as the best detection rate we have so far achieved has not met the goal detection rate. We also need to determine how well we are discriminating true cosmic ray shower events. Comparing our count rate at the paddle and DAQ configurations we have used, we think there may still be false detector signals.

Meaning to Larger Project: The CRMD is intended to be used with a radio wave detector and digitizing system. The CRMD will detect cosmic rays by their muon showers and create a focus period for the radio wave detector. Studying radio wave emissions may give us further insight into the origin and characteristics of the particles that are cosmic rays.

Future Research:
Continuing to adjust the settings and geometry of the detector to increase the discrimination and decrease trigger rate is necessary to be able to continue to the final goal of radio detection. The radio wave detector, antenna, and digitizer will need to be added to the experimental setup and calibrated. The CRMD triggering will signal the digitizer to trigger and potentially capture cosmic ray radio signals, the original and ultimate goal of the project.

We would like to thank the following for their assistance during the course of this research:

  • Josh Macy, Undergraduate, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

  • Dave Hoppert, Fermilab, Batavia, IL

  • Mark Adams, Fermilab, Batavia, IL


Further Development of Lightning Detection and Triggering for the TARA Experiment (2016)


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. This research continues and extends research from previous years.

Methods: ​For light detection, we used several photoresistors and an arduino board that read the voltage off of each resistor. The program constantly averages out all reading over a brief period of time. If a single reading spikes up above this average, 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 all the data is collected, it is stored on a micro SD card inside of the device with an absolute time stamp from a GPS chip.

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 4o. 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. With recent testing we believe our device can detect lightning up to 40 km away with a clear line of sight. However, the data extracted during this test may not have been reliable; therefore, our guess to the range of the device may be inaccurate. 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. This is due to issues regarding data types in the code.

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 as well as collect data on the lightning strikes themselves to better correlate the events with cosmic rays.

Future Research: ​The lightning detection device is nearly ready to be implemented. The device still needs further field testing. If a method for calculating the distance of a lightning strike is needed, additional devices may need to be constructed. Additionally, cubic fits were applied to the angular calculation algorithm based off of light simulated from a strobe machine. If the angular reading is deemed to be inaccurate, data from lightning strikes should be used to refit the cubic fits. 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.

Acknowledgements: We appreciate the assistance and guidance of the following during this project:

● Steven Prochyra, Graduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

● Samantha Conrad, Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS


Quarked! Particle Physics Games


Name:                 Robert R. Nickel, Blue Valley North High School, Leawood, KS

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

Research Mentors:                    Prof. Alice Bean, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS


Purpose: The goal of the Quarked project is to make educational particle physics videos, games, and activities predominantly for pre-college students. Quarked provides a series of activites designed to generate interest in science among elementary and secondary students. Quarked is an important part of particle physics outreach at The University of Kansas because it simplifies the world of quantum physics in a way that aspiring scientists of all ages can understand. Quarked introduces particle physics concepts to students in a fun and engaging way.


Methods:  The project uses ActionScript for programming, Adobe Photoshop for object creation, and Adobe Animate for animation of two-dimensional objects. Once the base code was created, I tested and revised the code in order to create the desired gameplay.


Results: I converted the Mass Matters game into a mobile Android app. Mass Matters involves shooting quarks and leptons and viewing their interaction within the higgs field to determine their mass. Converting the game to an app involved rewriting code for the Android platform, creating new graphics and animations, and extensive function and play testing on various computers, tablets, and smartphones. Additionally, I worked to improve the Quarked website by making the Quarked Club more functional and interesting. Previously, there was no direct incentive to encourage students to join the club. With these revisions, students need to correctly answer 10 particle physics questions. Being a part of the club allows students a sneak preview for upcoming games and one exclusive members-only game.


Meaning to Larger Project: The larger project is the collection of games and activities at . My work expanded an important concept about the Higgs Boson to mobile users and reformed the Quarked Club to potentially be more popular. The Quarked 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 the that thinking about science can be both fun and rewarding.


Future Research: The next step in the project will be to add more levels to Mass Matters to make the game more enjoyable and replayable. Once the app reaches both Android and iOS devices, it will be accessible to greater numbers of people.



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


  • Austin Irvine, Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

  • Zach Harris, Research Assistant, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

  • Hannah Gibson, Undergraduate Student, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS


Purdue University West Lafayette QuarkNet Annual Report

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University of Cincinnati Combined Student abstracts form Summer Research Program

University of Cincinnati annual report

U Hawaii Student Research Abstracts - 2016

The Effect of Solar Activity on Galactic Cosmic Rays

Laney Flanagan, Maui High School


    Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) are high-energy atomic nuclei traveling near the speed of light that zoom around the universe and very often strike the Earth’s atmosphere. The subsequent collisions result in the particle being split into several secondary particles which can then be detected by ground-based neutron monitors. The sun releases solar radiation that varies on an 11-year cycle in the form of solar wind, and this could affect the amount of GCRs that reach the Earth. Sunspots also vary directly with this cycle and so are a good indicator of solar activity, so this data was utilized. It is predicted that the sun’s solar activity will inversely correspond with the frequency of GCRs detected on Earth because of the interference caused by particles in the solar wind. Using existing sunspot data from NOAA and neutron monitor data from the Climax neutron monitor, the two variables were graphed against each other. At a period of more sunspots, the neutron monitor recorded lower counts; at a period of fewer sunspots, more GCRs were detected. This resulted in two almost-periodic lines that are opposite each other--a clear indication that the two variables are inversely correlated.


Cosmic Climate

Bryce Jackman, Maui High School   


It’s no secret that our climate has been scaling in a dramatic way over the last decade. The cause of this sudden change in temperature is blamed on everything from driving your car to deforestation. This project took a different approach, Not to see if the human factor is to blame for this change in temperature. Instead, Looks for a correlation between cosmic rays and the development of low cloud coverage. A cosmic ray is a high energy and highly radiated particle that comes from outside of the solar system, most oftenly from the Milky Way Galaxy.  This project was inspired by a theory created by Henrik Svensmark. He stated that when the sun is more active, the amount of cosmic rays reaching the earth is reduced, causing less low cloud coverage. While researching, it was found that GCR’s have little effect on the change of the climate due to how little they help form low level cloud formations.


The Effect of Galactic Cosmic Rays On Global Temperatures (Drafting)

Mary Chin, Maui High School, Kahului, Hawaii


The purpose of this project is to determine whether or not the frequency of galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) in the solar system affects Earth’s temperatures on a global scale. GCRs have the potential to initiate cloud formation in Earth’s atmosphere, altering weather patterns and regional climates. The number of GCRs infiltrating Earth’s atmosphere is highly dependent on interferences caused by the Sun’s magnetic field. The north and south magnetic fields are divided by a horizontal surface called the Heliospheric Current Sheet (HCS). Caused by irregularly strong magnetic regions in the current sheet are sunspots, and therefore their quantity is an indicator of fluctuations in the magnetic field, and furthermore how many GCR’s are reaching Earth. Current data on sunspot frequencies and global temperatures show a correlation, which therefore lead to the prediction that  number of sunspots present does have a significant effect on global temperatures.


The Relationship between Solar Irradiance and Global Warming

Phrincess Constantino, Maui High School, Kahului, HI


    In this project, global warming is the increase of the Earth’s atmospheric temperature due to the climate change. This warming effect can currently be observed in positive temperature anomalies in the global temperature average. Greenhouse gases are gases that contribute by absorbing infrared radiation or a type of electromagnetic radiation, such as radio waves, ultraviolet radiation, or X-rays. This greenhouse effect causes solar radiation to be trapped within the Earth’s atmosphere. This causes the solar radiation to refrain from going back into space. Data on greenhouse gases show that 20% of solar radiation is scattered and reflected by clouds and 4% is reflected by the Earth’s surface. Solar radiation is energy from the sun that comes in the form of electromagnetic wave energy.  The measurement of this solar energy in the upper atmosphere of the Earth is referred to as solar irradiance Solar irradiance can be measured in watts/ per square meter (W/m2) and is the energy emitted from the radiation.  Data on solar activity, over an eleven year average, shows that the total solar irradiance increased and the global average temperature on Earth increased as well. Therefore a prediction can be made that there is a correlation between the increasing measurements of  solar radiation and the increasing surface temperatures of the Earth due  to global warming.



Is Galactic Cosmic Ray modulation one of the cause of the global warming?

Keith Imada, Maui High School, Kahului, HI


The abundance of Galactic Cosmic Ray hitting our atmosphere is heavily affected by the Sun and its 11 year cycle. The current solar cycle is the weakest in centuries. In this project, students have been studying how the flux of cosmic ray at Earth measured by Neutron Monitors is affected by solar activity. How the solar activity is correlated with the sunspot numbers and how the solar activity changed during the last couple of centuries. They have been looking for correlations between global temperature, global warming, clouds formation, solar radiance and cosmic rays.


SUNY at Buffalo QuarkNet Center, Mentors: Prof. Ia Iashvili and Prof. Avto Kharchilava

2016 Annual Report - Hawaii

The Hawaii QuarkNet center has a lots of activities and news to share this year.

In November 14th, 2015, 13 students and 8 teachers participated at two days workshop about Cosmic Ray at University of Hawaii at Manoa where they were introduced to the QuarkNet activities and labs and to particle physics.

The usual MasterClass event occurred in February 2016 at Punahou school with 5 High school teachers and 55 students to discovery the secrets of the Higgs Boson (picture below: on right).

This summer, three QuakNet high school teachers from Hawaii have been nationally selected by the Quarknet Project to participate at the Fermilab Data Camp in Illinois, and the CERN ISE workshop in Greece this July.

A one day workshop in June 24th was held with the cadre of QuarkNet teachers at the Physics department (picture below: top left).

This summer, 4 students from Maui High School: Mary Chin, Princess Constantino, Laney Flanagan, Bryce Jackman with the help of their project. Mentor J.D. Armstrong, and their QuarkNet teacher Keith Imada, have been studied if exists a connection between galactic cosmic ray, solar activity and global warming (picture below: bottom left).

Virginia QuarkNet Center - Annual Report