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Every year the Cockcroft Institute and the STFC public engagement team host our annual Accelerator & Particle Physics Masterclass at Daresbury Laboratory, an event which gives a wide ranging and entertaining overview of particle physics and accelerator science to GCSE and A-level science students. The masterclass has long been a hit with local schools as well as schools as far away as Leeds. This year the ongoing pandemic forced us to be a bit different, and it was more important to us than ever to provide some educational enrichment to help counter the difficulties young people have experienced in their education during the Covid pandemic. So, determined to host the event in the best way we could, the masterclass went virtual for the first time!
This year’s event was a great challenge to organise; the lockdown after Christmas meant most students were studying from home and could not afford to come off timetable. Through a consultation exercise with schools, and inviting them to feed back on dates that would enable their students to participate whilst not compromising valuable curriculum time, we settled on the Easter holidays as the best option. With the support of the Daresbury media services and communications teams, we even created a brand new event webpage.
The masterclass began with an opening talk by Dr Alex Bainbridge on the history and development of particle accelerators at Daresbury, followed by a talk on the science of electromagnetism, a virtual tour of Diamond Light Source and an introduction to the Lancaster Particle Physics Package (LPPP). The next day we kick started with the conclusion to the LPPP (for those students who were keen enough to give it a go!), followed by a high quality video demonstration on ‘overcoming issues with particle accelerators’. We then went on a whistle stop tour of Boulby Underground Laboratory and a chance to see the inspiring work that goes on there, before rounding off with our grand finale ‘Your questions answered’ session. This was an opportunity for young people to engage with 30 volunteer staff from across Daresbury Laboratory and the CI universities, by allowing them to type in their questions about how accelerators work, university life, apprenticeships, early careers and careers related to science
Over the course of the two half day event we welcomed approximately 200 students from all over the northwest, as well as Berkshire , Northampton, Nottingham, Leeds (and even an enquiry from India!) which was a phenomenal response given it was in the students’ own time and over the Easter holidays. We would like to thank all the volunteers from Daresbury and the CI who gave their time to this event, and to STFC and the CI for funding it.