2017 Annual Report - Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University QuarkNet 2016


The Vanderbilt University QuarkNET group is mentored by William (Bill) Gabella, which much help from emeritus mentor Medford Webster and a volunteer teacher Terry King.  We advise the teachers and students on the use of the Cosmic Ray Muon Detectors (CRMDs), we maintain them, and we help with either setup of our loaned out CRMDs or with those that are permanently at the school.  We also host the 5 day summer workshop for the teachers.

Cosmic Ray Muon Detectors

The Vanderbilt QuarkNET has three conventional cosmic ray muon detectors  and one "unconventional" one---it has smaller scintillator paddles.  The one with the small scintillators is most useful for looking at attenuation of the muon flux with materials, like water, or bricks, stacked between pairs of scintillators.  These are routinely loaned to our high school teachers for their club and classroom work.  Starting a few years ago, our most active high schools now have their own CRMDs, with four sets in the area.

Summer Workshop 24-28 July 2017

The summer workshop is one of the important events on our QuarkNET
calendar, and it occurred on 24-28 July 2017.  It was attended by 9
teachers, and included an outing to Middle Tennessee State University
where we were able to see presentations by several of the professors
on astronomy, physics education, and the Radio Jove outreach project.
We also had a visit from Marla Glover who presented a CMS Data Class
for several days.

Monday and Tuesday included talks on the status of the Large Hadron
Collider at CERN, the status of the CMS detector, and on the CMS
searches for Dark Matter particles.  We heard from Gabella, Dr. Will
Johns, and Dr. Alfredo Gurolla, local faculty at Vanderbilt.
Dr. Johns reported over Vidyo from CERN where he had been overseeing
the work on the Pixel (sub) detector upgrade.  We also hear from a
local astronomer, Dr. Billy Teets about the total eclipse that would
occur in the area on August 21st.  That was especially helpful for the
teachers as their classes would be several weeks or more into the
semester, and high school science teachers were important in educating
the public about the eclipse.

This year we did a little more than just status and news, in
preparation for Marla Glover's Data School, Gabella introduced the CMS
detector in greater detail and gave a short primer on special
relativity and 4-momentum.

We also had talks on the status of LIGO's gravitational wave
discoveries and a travelogue from Terry Kink who visited LIGO Hanford
late this summer and had a lovely tour.  One of our teachers Nick
Horton also presented on the topic of "Understanding Alpha and Beta
Radiation" and presented us with a draft of a paper on the same topic.
His goal was instructional with an eye to state (and other) standards.

Both Monday and Tuesday we had a little unprogrammed time in the
afternoon to discuss eLab and the cosmic ray muon detectors.

On Wednesday we visited Middle Tennessee State University in
Murfreesboro, about 45 minutes from Nashville and a fast growing state
university.  We had presentations from Dr. Eric Klump about the
observatory he had designed, funded, and built right on the middle of
campus.  It is novel not only for that, but for having several large
screen monitors visible from the observatory exterior for classes to
see what is on the telescope.  He also trains small groups of
undergraduates to run the scope for their own research and for star
gazing events.  Dr. Klump also designed a uniques Stonehenge-esque
sculpture called the Uranidrome.  It contains many hidden "Easter
eggs," but what you can see is that from certain positions on the
pavement, certain pillars line up on important parts of the sky.  Also
the planets and sun's relative sizes are respresented.

Terry King and an MTSU undergraduate student demonstrated the Radio Jove
receiver and antenna, used to pick up the radio emissions around 21
MHz from the Sun and also from Jupiter.  This is a NASA funded
outreach project that Dr. Chuck Higgins manages.  He was out of town
on Wednesday but joined us on Friday at Vanderbilt to discuss the
physics of interest with radio astronomy directed at Jupiter.

We also heard from Dr. Brian Frank about his research in physics education,
especially with several lessons he demonstrated for us.  MTSU's
program has historically emphasized laboratory or hands-on work over
typical lectures.  This year they have dropped typical lectures
altogether.  All classes are laboratory classes, though with lectures
often some time during that period.  The examples were useful for our
high school teachers for their classrooms.

King and Gabella then led the group in some more hands-on experiments
with optics, focusing on polarization.

Marla Glover joined us Thursday and Friday to lead us on CMS Data.
She started with manipulatives and games to demonstrate some of the
principles, like the Quark Workbench to build particles from quarks,
or the Penny Mass to find via histograms that there were two classes
of penny by mass.

We also analyzed Totem data for diffraction results of proton
scattering and made a histogram no the wall with postit notes.  This
really seemed like a great way to introduce historgrams in high school
or younger.  For the teachers, it was a chance to see real CMS (Totem)
data and build the pair of peaks on the plus and the minus angle side
of the detector's centerline.  That was great.

Marla also did a great job introducing some four momentum analysis of
pictures of particles collisions and the resulting particles coming
from the decay of a Z boson.  We all analyzed our pictures, measuring
angles, and coming up with the mass of a particle that might have been
the intermediate state (which it was, of course).

All-in-all, the workshop came off well and was useful for the teachers
not only to see a different, nearby university and its resources, but
to see the CMS physics that is accessible to their students.  The
timing of the workshop, though historically the last week of July, was
not a good fit this year.  A poll was taken early in the year to ask
which week worked best and this week was chosen.  But several of our
school districts had their teachers start early, either the workshop
week or the week after.  This kept several of our regular teachers
from attending much of the workshop.  Next year this scheduling will
be done a little more carefully...though with no obvious answer to the
problem or summer school programs, vacations, and the start of the new

Links of Interest

Local web page     http://www.hep.vanderbilt.edu/~gabellwe/qnweb

Facebook group page    https://www.facebook.com/groups/682323215235912/

Vanderbilt QuarkNET Page (drupal, i.e. here)   /group/vanderbilt-university-quarknet-center

Top QuarkNET i2u2 page    /

[Written and edited by Bill Gabella 20170917]