There are different approaches to using the CERN@school Timepix detector in school. Research projects can be teacher-led or pupil-led. The case studies below outline the different approaches taken by teachers in schools.
Using this approach, teachers use the detector to support various aspects of the curriculum. This can be through a range of investigations and experiments in class before individual pupils or small groups then use the detector for more in-depth investigations. Often the subsequent report is examined and can contribute to their physics qualification or to an EPQ award. The benefit of the detector being used in class alongside relevant topics, is that pupils become familiar with it and how it works before developing an idea for investigation.
- Dave Cotton from Cardinal Newman Sixth Form College in Preston uses this approach. The detector goes into each class when they are covering radiation and is used to differentiate between the alpha, beta and gamma radiation. By using the detector in this way Dave finds that it provides a very visual way of demonstrating the properties of alpha, beta and gamma. Students then go on to investigate other effects, including the inverse square law. Subsequent to the detector being used in class, Dave establishes a smaller group of students who work outside of timetabled hours to complete an experiment. In 2015/16 students have been working on alpha deflection. They have made predictions, designed the apparatus (based on an idea first developed by Chris Shepherd of the Institute of Physics), collected data and analysed it. Each student is responsible for a different aspect of the experiment and will be writing this up to submit for an EPQ.
- Derek Osborne of Llandrindod High School and Tim Browett of Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen take a similar approach. They use the detector whenever you would normally use a GM tube. This is a way to highlight the differences between the two pieces of equipment and to show the flexibility of the detector.
- Tim Browett's pupils first come across it in their National 5 course where they look at the types of radiation and have a chance to investigate half-life. At Higher, pupils can then work in groups of two to three to complete an investigation. Then at Advanced Higher pupils need to complete a piece of work individually to submit. Areas of investigation at Robert Gordon's have so far included half-value thickness, beta deflection and how the detector itself works.
- Derek Osborne's sixth form pupils carry out experimental work using the detector. They have taken soil samples from a range of areas to test along with vegetation and water samples. This work has been voluntarily carried out in their own time with evenings and weekends being used to collect data and perform analysis.
In some instances, teachers have handed the detector directly to pupils as soon as it was received.
This is the case with Janet McKechnie at Pate's Grammar School. They have a tradition of sixth form pupils carrying out their own research. This is organised by a pupil committee that supports pupils in identifying projects to work on. The research is then normally carried out in their own time. In the past the detector has been used for a project and Pate’s Grammar School pupils have attended and presented at the CERN@school symposium.
This approach is beneficial if the teacher has limited time available and the group of pupils are motivated and have a goal to work towards.
You can read about some of the experimental work completed in schools here .
To find out more about the CERN@school programme and to sign-up your school to host a detector, contact us now .