General FAQ's 

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Who is eligible?

High-school students from all over the world aged 16 and older on the first day of their visit to CERN (preferably September 2018) are eligible. Younger students may form part of entering teams, but they will not be able to take part in the experiments at CERN.

Are students in their final year of high school eligible to apply?

Yes. Teams that include or consist of students in their final year of high school are still eligible if they submit their proposal before they graduate.

Is it possible for students under the age of 16 to participate in the competition?

Yes, but... For the participation to the competition there is no age limit. Students under the age of 16 can be members of a team and will receive certificates. The only limitation is that in case the team wins, only students that are at least 16 years old in September can come to CERN.

What is being offered?

2017 edition

A chance to win a trip to CERN and conduct a student-led particle physics experiment at the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. Before coming to CERN the winning teams will have the opportunity to work together with CERN scientists on their ideas on how to use the beam line and plan out a particle physics experiment. For short listed teams there will be additional prizes such as CosmicPi particle detectors and t-shirts. All participants will receive a certificate.

2018 edition

A chance to win a trip to CERN and conduct a student-led particle physics experiment at the world’s largest particle physics laboratory. Before coming to CERN the winning teams will have the opportunity to work together with CERN scientists on their ideas on how to use the beam line and plan out a particle physics experiment. For short listed teams there will be additional prizes - to be announced soon. All participants will receive a certificate.

Where will it happen?

At CERN’s fixed-target beam facilities, near Geneva, Switzerland.

When will it happen?

For the 2017 Competition, the winning teams were notified in June 2017. Their visit to CERN will take place at the end of September 2017.

The registration for the 2018 Competition is open. Your proposals can be submitted until the deadline at midnight CET on 31 March 2018. 

Why is CERN doing this?

This is an ideal opportunity to expose today’s cutting-edge physics to tomorrow’s scientists. The Beamline for Schools competition began in 2014 to celebrate CERN’s 60th Anniversary and after four very successful runs, CERN is pleased to renew this competition for its fifth year.

How do we enter?

Go to the competition webpage and follow the instructions you’ll find there. Remember, you must submit your written proposal and video by midnight CET on 31 March 2018.

Who can make a team?

Students can be from a single school, from multiple classes, from different schools or even countries. Each team has to have at least 5 members and has to be represented by an adult coach.

How many people per team?

The minimum is 5. There is no upper limit but for the winners a maximum of nine students may come to CERN, with two adults acting as coaches. Data transmission and web link-ups will allow additional students to participate and analyse data remotely.

How do we submit videos?

Publish your video on Vimeo or YouTube and submit your full proposal via the submission form including the link to your video.

In what languages can we submit our proposals?

All submissions must be made in English. Please note that we can’t consider submissions made in other languages. 

What kind of experiments could we do?

It’s up to you and your team how you want to use the CERN beamline. The beamline will be fully equipped; with a pre-determined set of detectors that you can choose from to design your own experiment. Have a look at the beam and detector document to learn more about the beamline facilities and its possibilities. In addition to the equipment provided by CERN, you may also bring your own detectors (maybe you can even build one yourself as previous winners have done).

How are the proposals judged?

We will evaluate the proposals on these criteria:

  • The feasibility of the experiment
  • Your ability to follow the scientific method
  • The motivation of the students: Why do you want to come to CERN?
  • The creativity of the experiment and the 1-minute video

We are not expecting fully developed experimental proposals. Your motivation and creativity are very important to us.

We don’t know about particle physics. Is this a problem?

All students enthusiastic about learning are encouraged to participate. CERN recognizes that most students have little to no experience with particle physics when they begin the competition, but will learn as they progress through the competition. Volunteers are available for providing help to the team. In addition CERN’s website has several resources for introducing particle physics.

Who will evaluate our experiment proposal?

A group of CERN physicists and engineers will pre-select the proposals. The shortlisted experiments will then be sent to the SPSC, the committee that validates all proposals for experiments at the laboratory’s Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) and Proton Synchrotron (PS) accelerators, which will pick the winner(s).

Technical FAQ's

Can we find a Higgs boson?

No. Higgs bosons were observed in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), CERN’s largest accelerator. Students will be using a beam of particles from the “Proton Synchrotron”, a smaller accelerator.

Can atoms or molecules be accelerated in the PS?

No. The PS can accelerate only protons. When the protons hit a target they produce a secondary beam composed of electrons, pions, kaons and protons as well as their antimatter partners. In addition there will be muons from the decay of pions and kaons. The momentum of the beam entering the T9 experimental area can be set by the user and it can range between 0.5 and 10.0 GeV/c. Its exact composition can be found here, together with information about the T9 beam line and the experimental facilities.

Is it feasible to recombine molecules (i.e. helium) with your setup?

No. Our professional physicists just managed to produce hydrogen from protons and electrons. Recombining helium is more difficult. In addition the beam in T9 does not contain alpha particles. Its exact composition can be found here.

Can we get an antimatter beam?

The T9 beam contains various particle types as described here but we are not able to select a beam of just one particle type (except for muons). However, using Cherenkov detectors or time of flight measurement it is in principle possible to identify which kind of particle the signal is coming from. Using this information, we can record only interactions of these particles. It is therefore possible to perform experiments with e.g. anti-electrons or anti-muons.

What are the professional physicists at CERN doing with the T9 beam?

Most of the time we use the beam to test prototypes of new detectors before they are installed in the large experiments. While some of these detectors are quite complicated we sometimes also use very simple detectors that can even be built at a school. Examples are scintillators or silicon detectors based on commercial image sensors. Other scientists use the beam in order to test the radiation tolerance of their electronics.

Can we study the decay of Kaons?

This is extremely difficult. The main problem is that there are not only kaons in the beam but also other particles. These particles create a background that make it difficult to identify correctly the kaons and to capture their decay products.

Can we bring our own equipment/detectors to the beam?

In principle, this is possible, but we have to evaluate it individually. So please contact us during your early planning phase.

Also, keep in mind that all material that is in the experimental area, even if not directly exposed to the beam, has to be checked for radiation and you may not be able to take it back to your school immediately.

Can we control the collimators?

Yes, both the horizontal and vertical collimators can be controlled. Please note that if you close the collimators you reduce at the same time the number of particles that enter into the experimental zone.

Can we do our experiment with the T9 primary proton beam without producing the secondary beams?

Unfortunately, this is not possible for technical reasons. However, if you use the positive beam and set the energy to 10 GeV you will get mostly protons in the secondary beam.

Is it possible to use a virus sample or bacteria in the experiment? What about other biological material?

Unfortunately is not possible to irradiate any kind of samples that contain living organisms including seeds, roots or cells. Inactive organic material such as wood or leather can be exposed to the beam.

I still have some technical questions. Who can I ask for help?

Please feel free to send us your questions to beam-line-4-schools@cern.ch
For obtaining quickly the most useful answer, you should include some short info about your ideas/your proposal and how our answers would influence your experiment.



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