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On the 3rd, 4th and 5th of March the Cockcroft Institute hosted its annual Particle Physics Masterclass (PPMC) at Daresbury Laboratory. This event is designed to give a broad and entertaining overview of particle physics and accelerator science to GCSE and A-level science students and is always a hit with local schools. The masterclass was organised by Dr Alex Bainbridge (ASTeC) with support from Wendy Cotterill (Daresbury public engagement) and volunteers on the day from several members of ASTeC as well as PhD students from the CI universities.
The CI welcomed a total of 250 students plus their teachers over the course of the event. Each day began with an opening talk by Alex Bainbridge on the history and development of particle accelerators at Daresbury, followed by a talk on the science of electromagnetism and a live link with Boulby Underground Laboratory to learn about the experiments being conducted there. They were then split into 3 groups that rotated through activities including a tour of the CLARA control room and SURFLab, some demonstrations of accelerator technology including vacuum science, electrostatic acceleration and superconductors followed by a chance to discuss entry into a science career with young scientists, and a tour of the Engineering technology Centre with some apprentices. These were followed by talks on Lasers and Superconducting RF, before a quick-fire quiz and a well loved classic talk by Fred Loebinger (Emeritus professor, University of Manchester) on the discovery of quarks, gluons and the Higgs Boson.
Feedback from the schools has been very positive, with students from Bridgewater High School commenting: “Overall, the day was very fulfilling and enjoyable. We’ve all gained a new scope of particle physics knowledge to take with us on our post-16 education choices and onward to university.”