Virginia Tech QuarkNET Center - Report for Year 2017

The Virginia Tech QuarkNET group has currently 2 leading teachers, and three members that are also high school teachers. Rebecca Jaronski and Nick Merrill both organized the workshop this year, unfortunately Nick had a job offer in Georgia and has to leave. Thank you Nick for the great work and we will welcome you anytime back. Rob Culbertson, a new member, had step in as a leading teacher to help Rebecca with our center activities. This year we have added also James Winterer, Julie Dunn an Dale Vipperman to the team. We are very happy to have such a strong team and we will still welcome anybody that would like to join us and have fun with physics.

This year Rob attended the Fermilab Data Camp and it was also recruited by the physics department to help with the installation of new low background radiation setup at the second level of the Kimballton Underground research facility (KURF) that is operated by the Virginia Tech Physics Department and lead by Prof. Camillo Mariani. KURF is situated in Giles county in an active limestone mine operated by Lhoist North America (Ripplemead, VA). We had also the help of one of the leading person in QuarkNET, Ken Cecire, to help with the center activities and installation and operations of the QuarkNET portable muon detector.

This year we have two meetings for our teachers and it was truly a banner year for our Center ! Our lead teachers, Rebecca Jaronski and Nick Merrill, organized and led the first summer workshop for local teachers in June (from the 7th till the 10th) and then we had another meeting toward the end of July (on the 27th and 28th)


At our workshop, these new teachers were given a particle physics ‘crash course’.  Center Mentor, Prof. Camillo Mariani, arranged a series of lectures from VT faculty covering topics in research and experiment ranging from basic particle physics, to neutrinos, quantum theory, and neutrinoless double beta decay! We were able to tour the VT physics labs on campus, including the Mobile Neutrino Lab and KURF.


Teachers also learned about our main topic, cosmic rays, by using a variety of lessons from the Quark Net Data Portfolio, eLabs, and the Cosmic Ray Muon Detector (CRMD). Teachers were asked to use the Cosmic Ray eLab to conduct a short research project, and given time to develop lesson plans to incorporate Data Portfolio resources into their own classrooms.


Probably the highlight of the workshop were the trips to VT’s Kimballton Underground Research Facility (pictures are included here), located at an active limestone mine within an hour of campus.  On the first trip, teachers trained in mine safety and were driven into the mine to the research areas at varying depths. On the second trip to the mine, teachers brought the QuarkNet CRMD to the bottom of the facility to test the muon flux compared to outside the mine, and found (as of course was expected) that the mine is an excellent place to conduct particle physics research as the cosmics are very well screened by the limestone in the mountain above.


A great time, and lots of learning, was had by all!


Here are some pictures of the teachers at work in the mine on taking cosmic muon data:


Just outside the lab, James checking out the mine


Data from the cosmic muon detector                                             Everybody hard at work