DESY News: CERN Beamline for Schools competition winners will come to DESY


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CERN Beamline for Schools competition winners will come to DESY

“Supercooling” team from Reims, France, to perform innovative detector experiment at DESY

The winning teams of the CERN Beamline for Schools competition are preparing for their experiments. For the first time this year, three teams have the opportunity to perform their experiments at a particle beamline, with one, from the École du Sacré-Coeur (Reims, France) coming to DESY this autumn. The other two winning teams – from the Club de Física Enrico Fermi (Vigo, Spain), the Elsewedy Technical Academy (STA) (Cairo, Egypt) – will perform their experiments at CERN in Geneva. All teams will perform their experiments with the support of scientists from the two research centres. The three teams were able to prevail among a total of 304 applications from 84 countries.

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The Supercooling team from Reims in France will experiment at the DESY test beam in autumn. Photo: École du Sacré-Coeur
Beamline for Schools (BL4S) is a physics competition open to high-school students from all over the world. The participants are invited to submit their proposals for an experiment that uses a beamline. Beamlines are facilities that provide fluxes of subatomic particles that scientists use to conduct experiments in different fields spanning fundamental physics, medicine and material science. Operating a beamline requires particle accelerators like those running at DESY and CERN.

In 2022, for the first time since the beginning of the competition, three teams will have the opportunity to perform their proposed experiments: two teams at CERN and one at DESY. The fruitful collaboration on BL4S between the two institutions started in 2019, when CERN’s accelerators were shut down for maintenance and upgrades, and DESY hosted the winners and made it possible for the competition to continue. Even though CERN’s second long shutdown is now over, DESY decided to continue supporting the competition by hosting an additional team that will run its experiment in parallel to their colleagues at CERN.

“I am thrilled that we will again host a school this autumn in the context of the Beamline for Schools initiative at DESY,” says Beate Heinemann, Director for Particle Physics at DESY. “We look forward to the visit of the French school that will explore a new way of tracking charged particles at our test beam at the DESY II accelerator. I congratulate all three of the winning teams!”

 “I continue to beimpressed by the quality of the students’ proposals, and this year I am particularly happy that CERN will again be able to welcome two of the three winning teams,” says Joachim Mnich, Director for Research and Computing at CERN. “Thanks to the strong engagement and innovative ideas of all the participants, this competition has once again createda unique environment that brings together science and high-school students.”

The Beamline for Schools competition was launched in 2014 to celebrate CERN’s 60th anniversary and, since then, more than 14 000 students from across the world have participated. The number of proposals submitted to the competition has been growing steadily in recent years. A committee of scientists from both CERN and DESY carefully evaluated the experiment proposals and shortlisted 25 teams, from among which the winners were selected. In addition, one team won the prize for the most creative video proposal and six teams were recognised for the quality of the outreach activities they organised in their local communities, taking advantage of what they had learned through their participation in the competition. “Taking part in Beamline for Schools offers a unique opportunity to learn about particle physics and take the first steps in scientific research at a very early stage of a student’s career,” says Margherita Boselli, BL4S project manager. “By organising an outreach activity, the teams are able to share their knowledge with different communities all around the world.”

The quality of the winning proposals shows that, with the right support, high-school students can tackle complex modern physics topics and fully develop a research plan. The Supercooling team, which will be performing their experiment at DESY, decided to test an innovative particle detection technique that relies on the phase transition between liquid and solid water. Inspired by the detection principle used in cloud and bubble chambers, the students will investigate the detection efficiency of water in the supercooled state, where the passage of highly energetic particles could induce a phase transition from liquid to solid.

“Beamline for Schools helped us to create a close-knit team and to match everyone’s ability to achieve the best version of ourselves,” says Brewen Le Grand from the Supercooling team. His teammate Clémence Calvet adds: “This competition is an incredible experience to acquire new skills, new knowledge and dive into the world of physics.”

The Club de Física Enrico Fermi team from Spain is intending to study the charge induced by the passage of ultra-relativistic charged particles in a class of gas detectors called multi-gap resistive plate chambers (MRPCs). They are interested in the relationship between the charge produced in the detector, the particles’ mass and the angle between the particle beam and the detector plane.

The STA team from Egypt, the first Middle Eastern country to win this competition, will also work on MRPCs, but focusing on a different phenomenon. They will analyse the detection efficiency of the MRPCs when the gas usually used by these detectors is replaced by a more environmentally friendly one.

Beamline for Schools is an education and outreach project funded by the CERN & Society Foundation and supported by individual donors, foundations and companies. The ninth edition is supported by the Arconic Foundation and the Wilhelm and Else Heraeus Foundation, with additional contributions from Amgen Switzerland.

Next year, Beamline for Schools will celebrate its 10th edition: the participation rate and the success of recent editions show that the competition is still an attractive project for young generations of students. The registration for BL4S 2023 will open soon.


Further information

- BL4S Website

- 2022 edition

- Shortlisted and special mention teams 2022