Rochester Annual Report


Mentor: Kevin McFarland

Our 2015 meeting (July 27 – July 31) had a primary focus: to present to high school teachers classroom activities (developed in 2010 using MINERvA data) and the classroom website (developed in 2012 and revised/refined in 2014). Prof. Kevin McFarland served as mentor and organizer of the program.  Ms. Carol Hoffman and Mr. Paul Sedita, both from Rochester, participated in the working group and were the lead-teacher presenters to 7 local high school physics teachers (Peter Apps, Robert Enck, Michael Madden, Stephanie Mitz-Miller, Amy Rotoli, Robert Szalapski and Michael Terry).

The overall objective of this project is to give students a chance to access particle physics data and to ask their own questions and to draw their own conclusions from the data.  This is done in the context of a set of exercises that require limited interpretation of the experimental data with specific goals that are related to the standard high school curriculum.  The two exercises use two-track elastic neutrino scattering events to reconstruct information about the target using momentum conservation and radioactive decays of muons in the MINERvA detector to measure parameters of radioactive decay, such as the “half-life” and the released energy in the decay.

During the five days, the teachers were introduced to the classroom website ( and were given the opportunity to perform the activities as if they were students in their classroom. As the activities proceeded, the teachers gave valuable insight and recommendations to the lead-teachers as to how the website could be improved in regard to user-friendliness and issues that still remained with some links.  This was, in essence, the secondary focus of the meetings: to identify the remaining weaknesses in some of the materials and address those, while also looking at ways to improve the “packaging” of the materials to make it easier for teachers to take the materials from the website and develop a lesson plan tailored to their classroom.  The teachers also heard presentations on various aspects of particle physics; several of the teachers are new to teaching particle physics.

Additional meetings (before and after the actual workshop) involved the lead teachers, Kevin McFarland and Prof. Nathaniel Tagg (Otterbein University). They were used to discuss daily presentations and areas on the website that still needed to be improved.