Eight Grade 11 learners from St John’s College and two from Barnato Park High School, both in Johannesburg, recently teamed up to win the European Organisation for Nuclear Research’s (CERN’s) Beamline for Schools competition and will travel to Switzerland in September to carry out their winning experiment.
Out of the 119 teams worldwide that entered the competition, the South African team – Accelerating Africa – and the Leo4G team from Liceo Scientifico Leonardo da Vinci School, in Florence, Italy, were declared the winners last month.
Accelerating Africa’s proposed experiment will study the properties of a crystal undulator for the production of mega-electron-volt-range gamma radiation.
CERN has made a beamline available to the teams on which to run their experiments.
A beamline is a beam of accelerated particles along a specific path of an accelerator facility.
Barnato Park High School learners Malaika Elliot Motsoai says he was ecstatic to hear that his team had been declared one of the winners.
The aim of the Beamline for Schools competition was to enable learners to run an experiment in the same way that researchers do at the Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, and other facilities at CERN.
In proposals of fewer than 1 000 words, teams had to explain why they wanted to visit CERN, what they hoped to take away from the experience and their thoughts on how they would use the particle beam for their experiment. They also had to summarise their written proposal in a creative video.
“I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in physics or engineering, and winning this amazing competition has brought me closer to my dreams. I’ve always wanted to travel abroad as I have never been overseas or in an airplane. I’m truly thankful for this opportunity and I know that I will take it with both hands and not let go of it,” he enthuses.
Accelerating Africa’s motivation proposal stated that it could make an impact on science education in South Africa if the team members were able to carry out the experiment at CERN. The team also stated that South Africa was a developing country and that scientific research was vital to its sustainability and socioeconomic growth.
The team believes that South Africa had significant potential to be a scientific hub in Africa.
“We propose an experiment that could be the next step in the production of brilliant light sources. “Electromagnetic radiation forms . . . the basis of modern technology and we have, therefore, proposed an experiment to produce high- energy gamma rays using a crystalline undulator,” stated the team in its proposal.
St John’s College science department head Dr Colleen Henning tells Engineering News that the learners worked through a number of jour- nal articles on crystalline undulators.