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 www.quarked.org . 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