Boston Area QuarkNet Center
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified)
on Friday, September 13, 2013 - 09:03
Welcome to the Boston Area QuarkNet center. We meet on the campus of Roxbury Latin School and serve teachers in the surrounding area.
2016-2017Boston QuarkNet Center Annual Report
November 29, 2016
We held our usual fall meeting at 5:00 pm 11/29/2016 in the Physics Lab at Roxbury Latin School. In attendance along with our two Northeastern mentors Darien Wood and George Alverson were Amanda Harnden from Dedham H. S., new mom Catherine Newman and Mike Wadness from Medford H. S., Hema Roychowdhry and Gerry Gagnon from Newton South H. S., Ayp Awobode from Boston public schools, Mike Hirsh from Needham H. S., and Rick Dower, as host.
As indicated in meeting Minutes included below, we had another active year at the Boston Center (in continuous operation since 1999).
Mentors: Prof. George Alverson, Northeastern University
Prof. Ulrich Heintz, Brown University
At our meeting on Wednesday (11/4) we welcomed a new member to the group. Hema Roychowdhury teaches physics with Gerry Gagnon at Newton South High School. Along with Hema and Gerry, Mike Wadness and Catherine Newman (Medford High School), Chris Perkins (Wheeler School), and George Odell (North Andover High School) and Rick Dower rounded out the attendees list.
Hema showed an interesting block on block friction problem that exhibited a sort of hysteresis behavior with the resulting motion depending on whether force was applied that increased from zero or decreased from a high value. This provoked an interesting conversation on visualization techniques that various teachers used to help their students conceptualize friction and the non-rigid behavior of materials.
Conversation about the Baseball Lab at Mass Lowell prompted Hema to recommend high speed camera YouTube videos from Time Warp on bat-ball collisions and billiard ball collisions, which we watched.
Others recommended the Myth Busters episode on bullets simultaneously dropped and fired horizontally.
Mike Wadness showed his collection of 1-minute videos made by students to advocate their Masterclass experience.
George Odell sung the praises of the book 30-second Quantum Theory.
Then we did some experimental work with the Perimeter Institute (PI) LED apparatus for finding the value of Planck’s constant.
One set of apparatus with a lab guide is available from PI for about $20 Canadian or a set of 8 kits with a lab guide for about $200 Canadian.
Chris Perkins offered an interesting modification of the experimental process by using a Vernier spectrophotometer to measure the actual peak wavelength of each LED (which may differ by 5 - 6 nm from the nominal values) and a microscope focused on the LED to get a better read on voltage at which it turns on (or off).
At our meeting on Wednesday (1/27) we welcomed a new member to the group. Robert Moore is the new Physics teacher and Science Chariman at Roxbury Latin School. Though new to particle physics, he is a long-time physics teacher, and he is enthusiastic about joining the Boston QuarkNet group. We are happy to have him and happy that he provides his classroom for our meeting site. In addition to Robert, Hema Roychowdhury and Gerry Gagnon from Newton South High School, Mike Wadness and Catherine Newman from Medford High School, Amanda Harnden (Dedham High School), George Odell (North Andover High School), Mike Hirsh (Needham High School), and Rick Dower participated.
After conversation and snacks, Mike Wadness took us through the Masterclass Update Workshop. He walked through the schedule for the day (9:00 am – 4:00 pm on Saturday March 5 at Northeastern University) including talks to students about particle physics, a tour of a university physics lab, lunch with physicists and physics grad students, student analysis of CMS data using the updated iSpy data visualization tool, and a video conference with students from another participating QuarkNet center.
Then we practiced doing our own analysis of W and Z events with the new webgl version of the iSpy tool. The tool is very powerful and has several features that make analysis interesting.
Finally, we looked at the student activities (Rolling with Rutherford, Quark Workbench, and Calculation of the Z Mass) that teachers should lead their students through in preparation for their participation in the Masterclass. The time flew by, and we went away with enthusiasm to recruit students to attend the March Masterclass.
All the activities (and more) are available on the Orientation link at /page/masterclass-library-project-map-2016 .
Now that winter is here, it is time to think about summer. The QuarkNet Data Camp (Bootcamp) for teachers is scheduled for Sunday July 10 – Friday July 15. Travel, room, and board and a stipend for participation are paid by QuarkNet. Many of us have been to the camp and found it to be a great opportunity to learn about particle physics and data analysis and to work with teachers from around the USA. Amanda is applying again for the CERN HST program through QuarkNet. She wasn’t chosen last year, but as a consolation she was sponsored to attend a one-week science and arts teacher workshop in Greece. We all sympathized with her hardship at having to spend a week on the Mediterranean during the summer.
At our May 25th meeting Mike Wadness, George Odell, and Rick Dower spent an enjoyable couple of hours talking physics and physics teaching. Rick set up a home-made interferometer demo adapted from instructions on the LIGO e-Lab web site. We could see interference fringes and note the instrument’s sensitivity by watching the fringe pattern shift at the slightest touch on the instrument’s base or even on the table that the instrument rested upon.
Next, Rick described the early history of x-ray experiments and described efforts about 100 years ago to characterize x-rays as particles or waves. The wave properties were demonstrated in 1912 by Max von Laue (Nobel Prize in 1914) and his students W. Friedrich and P. Knipping with photographs of diffraction spots produced in response to x-rays impinging on the regular arrangement of atoms in a copper sulfate crystal. William Bragg and Lawrence Bragg (joint Nobel Prize in 1915) developed an x-ray spectrometer that used a crystal to measure x-ray wavelengths. They began using it to determine the crystal structure and atomic spacing of a variety of materials. Henry Moseley in 1914 used such a spectrometer to measure the wavelengths of characteristic secondary x-rays given by samples of various elements. His measurements allowed the identification of the atomic number of the elements. Moseley’s data was shown to fit into the scheme of atomic structure proposed by Niels Bohr (1912-1913, Nobel Prize in 1922). Student and teacher versions of a worksheet that leads a student through the development of Bohr’s theory are available from Rick Dower.
Finally, Mike showed his students’ classroom work with his CRMD measuring the time-of-flight of cosmic ray muons. The data is available on the Cosmic Ray e-Lab web site. The results highlight the need for relativistic considerations for muons traveling at near light speed. Mike says the Tutorial on the time-of-flight study is a particularly good resource on the web site.
We hope for a good turn-out at our summer Workshop August 8-11. We will look at the first 100 years of particle physics in some detail and help Amanda Herndon assemble a cosmic ray detector for use in her classroom.
August 8-11, 2016 Boston QuarkNet Summer Workshop
On August 8-10 Amanda Harnden, Mike Wadness, Pat Corcoran, Gerry Gagnon, Mike Hirsh, and Rick Dower gathered at Roxbury Latin School for our Summer Workshop. On August 9, Catherine Newman and Henry, the newest addition to her family, joined us. Much oohing and ahhing over Henry did not distract us too much from our focus on experimental exercises related to early particle physics. The Workshop title was “The First 100 Years of Particle Physics.” We managed to make it through the first 80 years (1895 – 1975). Activities included determining Avogadro’s’ number from measurements on halite (NaCl) crystals), determining the helical pitch and radius of a retractable pen coil spring and determining the pitch length and radius of the double helix in a DNA strand from measurements of Rosalind Franklin’s x-ray diffraction photo, measuring electron mass with an electron beam tube, measuring absorption of radioactivity from a piece of uranium ore to demonstrate the existence of beta and gamma radiation, analyzing data from beta spectrometer measurements to plot the energy spectrum of electrons from the beta decay of Tl-204 and Sr-90. We also had presentations by Rick Dower on the history of neutron discovery by James Chadwick and the development of the cyclotron by Ernest Lawrence. Analysis of bubble chamber photos yielded the mass and mean lifetime of the S- particle and the mass and strangeness of the W- particle. On 8/10 we examined the history of the 1974 November Revolution in which the J/Y particle discovery was announced and its significance as a charm-anticharm meson solidified the understanding of the quark structure of hadrons.
At the conclusion of each of the first three days of the workshop, we worked on assembling the scintillator paddles for Amanda’s cosmic ray detector. On the final day (8/11), we were joined by Tammy Kjonaas and Scott Saltman and all joined in to help finish the construction, download the EQUIP software, and help Amanda get her detector up and running.
A good time was had by all participants.
In addition to attending our regular meetings, several Boston members engaged in a various other QuarkNet activities. Several teachers brought students to the Masterclass at Northeastern in March. Hema attended the 2016 Fermilab Data Camp at which Gerry was a Fellow. Mike Wadness attended the annual Virtual Center meeting, held this year at Fermilab in August. George Odell and Rick spread the QuarkNet gospel at the Massachusetts Teachers Association meeting at UMass Amherst in a workshop in August. Rick attended summer workshops at Cincinnati, Johns Hopkins, and Pennsylvania. He conducted a LIGO e-Lab workshop at Oklahoma State in June and assisted in the CMS e-Lab and Minerva data reviews at Fermilab in August.
Using detector ID 6865, beginning Tues May 17th and ending Wed May 25th, 2016 at Medford High School in Medford, MA students collected data with various seperation distances between counters 1 and 4. Counters 2 and 3 were also used to provide a four fold coincidence.
When you are searching for the data make sure you unselect the blessed option under the advanced search. The distances between the counters can be found in the comments section of each data file.
When plotting time of flight between counters 1 and 4 on the y-axis and the seperation between counters 1 and 4 on the x-axis the slope gives you the inverse of the speed of the muons. See graph below or click here for a better view /sites/default/files/tof_data.jpg
Boston QuarkNet Center
2015 Annual Report
As indicated in meeting Minutes included below, we had another active year at the Boston Center (in continuous operation since 1999).
Mentors: Prof. George Alverson, Northeastern University
Prof. Ulruch Heintz, Brown University
Another convivial meeting occurred tonight with a few new participants. Greg Schwanbeck from Westwood High School, Ratnakar Amaravadi from Natick High School, and Justin Goding, who is planning a career change from engineering to physics teaching, joined us for the first time. George Alverson from Northeastern, Tom Jordan, our QuarkNet staff member from UMass Amherst, and the usual suspects of Catherine Newman (nee Haberkorn), Mike Wadness, Mike Hirsh, George Odell, and Rick Dower filled out the crew. Congratulations to Catherine on her wedding this past summer!
After our usual conversation about physics teaching over snacks, Mike Hirsh showed us a fascinating Veritasium video on YouTube about Kahn Academy and Science Teaching. The indication was that explaining a topic clearly without requiring the student to confront his or her misconceptions along the way may be counterproductive because students tend to hear what they expect to hear and get confirmed in their incorrect explanations. Greg followed that with some slides from a recent presentation he gave on the virtues of Peer Instruction (a technique developed by Eric Mazur at Harvard) to get students talking about their explanations of phenomena before an explanation is given. That way their misconceptions are brought into the open, and the teacher or other students can confront them with other evidence that challenges those misconceptions. We discussed that difference between a conceptual understanding of phenomena and an algorithmic understanding with which a student may be able to calculate a numerically correct answer to a problem but not be able to explain properly what is happening and why things work the way they do.
George Odell demonstrated the iSense web site and data analysis platform and extolled its many easy-to-use features. Mike Hirsh demonstrated a small copper sheet swinging between two magnets and coming to an abrupt stop due to the eddy currents generated. Rick followed that with a neodymium magnet dropping at a slow steady velocity through a copper pipe and a longer aluminum pipe in the same time. Mike Wadness explained the Particle Physics Masterclass student exercise (coming up on March 14, 2015 at Northeastern) to the new folks. We ended by setting the date and time for our next meeting as Wednesday, February 25 at Roxbury Latin. Among other things, we will be going through the Z-mass exercise that is part of the preparation for the Masterclass. We hope to see many of you then. For now, we wish you a Joyous Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!
Our winter meeting took place on Wednesday February 25, 2015 at Roxbury Latin School. In addition to regulars like Mike Wadness, George Odell, and me, we were joined by Charlotte Wood-Harrington, Justin Goding, and via video conference Tammy Kjonaas and two other teachers interested in preparing for a QuarkNet Masterclass. Mike Wadness led the Masterclass updadte session and wolked everyone through the use of the ispy CMS event display program and the CMS CIMA Masterclass protocall for examining Z and Higgs boson candidates in the CMS data. The session concluded with teachers working through the Mass Calc Z exercise. We were happy that the meeting was scheduled for a Wednesday and not a Monday when the apparently inevitable Monday snowstorm in Boston would have meant a postponement and rescheduling of the meeting. Hot cider and snacks kept our spirits up on the chilly evening.
On Tuesday March 10, six of my students and I had the pleasure of a video conference with Elisa Gatz and her students in DeKalb, IL for an ATLAS Masterclass. Elisa and I have fond memories of working together at the CERN HST program during July 2010.
Mike Wadness and Prof. George Alverson led the Boston CMS Masterclass at Northeastern University with about 20 students. A good time was had by all.
As many of you know, Tom Jordan, our QuarkNet staff resresentative in the New England area died unexpectedly of a heart attack last week. He was only 52. Mike Wadness, Mike Hirsh, Gerry Gagnon, and I attended a Rememberance Service with Tom's family, friends, and Fermilab colleagues this past Tuesday (4/7/2015) in Northampton, MA. The depth of affection that he engendered in those with whom he lived and worked was evident from the memories recalled by those in attendance. Mike Wadness spoke of Tom's love of fun and adventure during a car trip to see Mt. St. Helens while at the Protland AAPT meeting. I noted Tom's use of questions and suggestions rather than answers to prompt people to try and answer their own questions. The service was a moving tribute to a colleague who will be missed.
We had our spring meeting on a cool evening in June (6/3) and a welcome reunion with our first mentors Ulrich Heintz (Brown University) and Darien Wood (Northeastern University). QuarkNet teachers in attendance were Tammy Kjonaas and Chris Perkins (Wheeler School), Catherine Newman and Mike Wadness (Medford High), George Odell (North Andover High), Gerry Gagnon( Newton South High), Justin Goding, Mike Hirsh (Needham High), and Rick Dower (Roxbury Latin School).
After initial snacks and conversation about the Particle Fever movie and the pleasures of teaching at the end of the year, Mike Wadness showed us some cosmic ray data that his class had taken. They pulled out the leading edge times of three-fold coincidence hits in the detector paddles, which had been placed in a vertical line with about 1 m between the top and middle paddles and 1 m between the middle and bottom paddles.After scrubbing the data to eliminate spurious counts, they were able to show that the muons traveled near the speed of light. When that data was combined with muon lifetime data (2.2 microseconds), they made the inference of time dilation for high-speed muons.
To celebrate the accomplishment today (6/3) of stable 6.5 TeV proton beams, Darien showed the group the "Collide" cover and video put together by a group at the LHC.
On Wednesday and Thursday August 12-13 Amanda Bragan Harden, Catherine Newman, Tammy Kjonaas, Mike Wadness, Chris Perkins, Gerry Gagnon, and Rick Dower got together at Roxbury Latin to share stories and work with our QuarkNet cosmic ray detectors. Mike Hirsh stopped by for a while and told us about his time at the CERN HST summer program before he had to fly to Tampa to look in on a relative. Wednesday we started by catching up on each other’s recent activities. Gerry was at the QuarkNet Data Camp at Fermilab. Mike was in New Mexico for the meeting of the QuarkNet Virtual Center. Rick assisted Ken Cecire at the Johns Hopkins Data Workshop then acted as a facilitator at the University of Kansas Data Workshop. The rest of the day was largely devoted to setting up the detectors and downloading the EQUIP software developed by an Indiana high school student and others at the Perdue QuarkNet center. EQUIP makes data collection much easier and allows the experimenter to assess the quality of the data as it is being gathered (plots of data rates, etc. are assembled in process) rather than wait until data is uploaded and analyzed. EQUIP is available for download at:
With EQUIP Tammy and Chris were able to find that one of their detector paddles had a light leak after they discovered that the count rate went down substantially during lunch when the lab lights were turned off. Similarly, Mike found that one of his cable connections was not reliable after looking at the data rates from an overnight run.
Rick discovered that his computer unexpectedly turned itself off overnight, but that is another story.
On Thursday, we reviewed the process of “blessing” data as a comparison reference when uploading the data to the QuarkNet server. The we set up the three detectors for a run so that we could practice putting together uploaded data from different detectors. We collected data during lunch and during the time it took to watch the PBS program The Bomb about the Manhattan Project, the atomic anxiety of the '50s and ‘60s, and the nuclear arms control agreements that brought us to today. We streamed the program from WGBH.
After some practice analysis of the uploaded data, Tammy and Chris showed us the video that was part of Wheeler School’s Honorable Mention entry in the CERN Beamline-for-Schools contest. Amanda told us about her experience at the week-long Inspiring Science Education conference in Marathonas, Attiki, Greece. Apparently this was the first year that U. S. teachers have attended this European-sponsored conference. The U. S. teachers were selected from among the QuarkNet ranks. Finally, Catherine, a Wheeler student, described some of the experiments she had done with the cosmic ray detector including finding an East-West difference in cosmic ray rates. She used the Penn state software that Rick had distributed last year along with recent updates.That software can be found at
Our Boston QuarkNet Center held its usual round on school-year meetings and summer workshop in 2013-2014, as described below.
Minutes from the Meeting on 11 December 2013 at Roxbury Latin School:
On Wednesday December 11 we held our usual late fall meeting at Roxbury Latin School. Catherine Haberkorn and Mike Wadness joined us from Medford. Michael Hamblin came from Concord. Gerry Gagnon arrived from Newton South, and Mike Hirsh made the trip from Needham. Several colleagues were hindered by family and school obligations. Catherine suggested that a better time for the meeting may, perhaps be in January rather than during the holiday rush in December. That is something we should explore next winter.
Over hot cider and snacks we had wide ranging conversations about physics and physics teaching that mad the evening enjoyable. Our particular focus was on internet resources for physics teaching. Mike Hirsh brought up the Veritasium web site and showed the paradox of the spinning wooden block hit by a bullet fired at the center of mass and to one side of the center of mass – an intriguing exploration of physics intuition and insight. Mike Wadness walked us through the i2u2.org CMS e-lab site and recommended it as a follow-up for the Masterclass experience for students in March or as an investigation during the post-AP time in May and June. Mike Hamblin extolled the Creation of the Universe DVD with Timothy Ferris as a source of inspiration for students and teachers, alike. Catherine introduced us to the TED talk of Sanjay Mahajan on “Streetfighting Mathematics” in which he started with a simple demonstration of air drag and ended by estimating the relative cost of transportation per person of an automobile and a jet passenger plane – an impressive demonstration of making sense of the world from simple observations and the mathematics of relationships and dimensional analysis. Rick showed the University of Colorado site at phet.colorado.edu which contains many useful interactive physics simulations, Don Lincoln videos on youtube in which he explains a variety of particle physics topics and the Philip Morrison segments on youtube, taken from his Ring of Truth programs, which show a variety of fascinating demonstrations.
There was some discussion of sources of interesting physics problems that could be the source of class efforts. After vaguely remembering that the group at the University of Minnesota has worked on that, I Googled “context rich physics problems” (after the meeting) and up popped the sites at Minnesota that contain a great variety of such problems and instructions for creating your own.
Finally, we ended the evening with a challenge to be explained. If, according to Faraday’s law, the voltage generated around a loop of wire depends on the rate of change of flux through the loop, then why does the output voltage of a transformer not depend on the frequency of the input voltage and only depends on the turn ratio of the primary and secondary coils? Is it a matter of the different responses of a circuit to a transient versus a steady state input? Any informative responses to this question will help Mike Hamblin refrain from tearing out any more of his hair.
Minutes from the Meeting on 26 February 2014 at Roxbury Latin School:
A chilly Wednesday night in February (2/26) was warmed by the company of Catherine Haberkorn, Chris Perkins, Ayo Awobode, Gerry Gagnon, George Odell, Mike Wadness, and Mike Hirsh along with George Alverson from Northeastern and Darwin, a video visitor from the Virtual QuarkNet group. After some hot apple cider, snacks, and conversation, Mike Wadness walked us through the teacher preparation necessary for the upcoming Particle Physics Masterclass at Northeastern (3/15).
Mike noted that some Higgs events have been added to the data set for the Masterclass.
Particle Physics Masterclass at Northeastern University on 15 March 2014
Our yearly Particle Physics Masterclass was organized by Mike Wadness and George Alverson and held at Northeastern University on 15 March 2013. About 16 students enjoyed the opportunity to become engaged in particle physics discovery.
CERN’s “Beam Line 4 Schools” Contest
Student groups supervised by Mike Wadness at Medford High School and Rick Dower at Roxbury Latin School submitted written particle physics experiment proposals and 1-minute videos to CERN to be considered in the “Beam Line 4 Schools” contest. Though they did not win, both groups greatly enjoyed the process of putting together the proposals and constructing the videos.
Minutes from the Meeting on 21 May 2014 at Roxbury Latin School:
We had a very congenial meeting last night with a picnic supper to celebrate the spring. In addition to George Alverson from Northeastern, Tom Jordan, our QuarkNet regional coordinator joined us from Northhampton. Teachers attending were Michael Hamblin, Chris Perkins, Ayo Awobode, Gerry Gagnon, Mike Wadness, Mike Hirsh, Pat Corcoran, and Rick Dower. After some initial conversation about AP exams, we talked about some of the activities we do with our classes at this time of year. Mike Wadness gives his students some practical exercises in optics. Mike Hirsh has his students build simple AM radios (no amplifiers) that easily pick up a nearby transmitter. Chris Perkins has his chemistry students pair up to develop demonstrations that they present to the rest of their class.
During conversation about relativity, Rick Dower recommended the book Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps by Peter Galison for its discussion of the widespread technical interest in clock synchronization in Switzerland (and the rest of the world) at the time that Einstein was developing his relativity theory. He was working at the Swiss Patent Office and reviewing patent applications for devices related to that problem in the early 1900s. Rick also demonstrated the Faraday Rotation apparatus built by Teach Spin. The effect was mentioned on the recent Cosmos show that featured the work of Michael Faraday. The 1845 discovery was the first evidence of the interaction between light, matter, and magnetism. Rick also showed the measurement of the speed (2 x 108 m/s) of electromagnetic signals in coaxial cable. The demonstration was inspired by a January 2003 article in The Physics Teacher by Se-Yuen Mak.
Mike Wadness and Rick Dower showed the 1-minute videos made by their students as part of their “Beam Line 4 Schools” experiment proposals for the CERN contest. Mike Hirsh introduced the Veritasium experiment comparing the result of shooting a bullet into the center of a wood block and into an off-center location. The prediction and experimental observation evoked much comment. Find it on Youtube by searching for “bullet in block.”
Ayo is looking for a new physics teaching position for next year. Please let him know if you become aware of any in the area.
We have planned a two-day summer Workshop at Roxbury Latin on Wednesday and Thursday August 20-21, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm. The major topic will be working with the cosmic ray muon detectors. Several of us want more practice setting up measurements and uploading data so that we can have greater confidence when helping students use the detectors.
Minutes from the QuarkNet Workshop on 20-21 August 2014 at Roxbury Latin School:
On August 20-21 we had an enjoyable opportunity to work together getting our QuarkNet Cosmic Ray Muon Detectors (CRMD) calibrated and working. Chris Perkins brought his new physics-teaching colleague, Tammy Kjonaas, up from Providence along with the CRMD that he assembled two years ago at Wheeler School. Pat Corcoran came with the CRMD that Tom Jordan helped him and Michael Hirsh put together at Needham High this past summer. I got back to calibrating the detector that I put together at Roxbury Latin two years ago. In addition, Gerry Gagnon from Newton South and Amanda Bragan from Dedham High joined in the fun. After plateauing the detectors, we faced up to setting the threshold values for the DAQ boards.
Thanks to Prof. Stefane Cotu at Penn State, I was able to provide software for running CRMD experiments independent of the QuarkNet analysis software that required uploading the data to the central server first. So on the second day of the workshop Chris and Tammy were able to run a measurement of cosmic ray muon speed. Pat, Amanda, Michael, and Gerry measured the muon flux from the vertical direction compared with the flux arriving at 45 degrees to vertical and the flux along the horizontal.
During the incidental conversation, Pat talked about the fun he had at the Fermilab Particle Physics Boot Camp earlier this summer. It was a pleasure to see everyone engaged and getting results from their detectors.
Greetings Masterclass Fans!
This is our first phase in signing up for the Masterclass. In this first phase, we'll
try to find out who is interested in bringing students. Afterwards, we can figure out
how many students each teacher can bring. The preparation lessons for the masterclass
can be found at /content/classroom-prep
So...if you can fill out the survey at:
I know this is a little on the rushed side (my fault) but the sooner you fill out the
survey to express an interest, the sooner we can figure out how many students each