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Monday, November 21, 2016

2016 Kansas EPSCoR Physics Teacher Workshop Participants' Collaboration results in Kansas High School Acquiring Access to Cosmic Ray Detector


   Molly Bovos,  Basehor-Linwood High School Physics Teacher met James Deane, Ottawa High School Physics Teacher at the 2016 Kansas NSF EPSCoR Physics Teacher Workshop, "Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences," held at Kansas State University this past summer.  At the workshop, teachers toured the James R. Macdonald Laboratory, discussed cutting edge Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) research with Kansas EPSCoR Physicists and brainstormed how to connect the laser research to their high school physics classroom.  
   At the end of the workshop, Deane invited Bovos to join QuarkNet, a project supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the Office of High Energy Physics, the Office of Science and the U. S. Department of Energy. QuarkNet is a website dedicated to high school students, teachers and physicists working together on physics research that involves the exploration of the nature of matter, energy, space and time. 
   Through the QuarkNet program, Bovos attended a workshop on the study of cosmic rays and cosmic ray muons.  She became very interested in QuarkNet's initiative to make Cosmic Ray Detectors available to high schools students, so she applied and was granted a detector, on loan, from Chicago's Fermilab.  There are nine such Comic Ray Detectors that are registered to Kansas teachers at this time. As an added bonus, QuarkNet provides information collected from around the world allowing other schools with the same equipment to compare data collected. 
HS Senior Alex Teeter
   Already she has students engaged in studying the process that creates cosmic rays, which is a nuclear reaction. One student, Alex Teeters, a Basehor-Linwood High School senior is interested in nuclear physics and is taking an independent study course in Modern Physics with Bovos.  Together they are working on a project involving a time-of-flight study. The study involves measuring how fast a comic ray muon is traveling by spacing several detectors at different heights, then calculating their time of flight from the atmosphere to Earth.  Muons are very unstable particles and they decay in 2.2 micro seconds, so theoretically they should not be able to travel from the atmosphere to the Earth, but they do. According to Bovos, “This is one piece of evidence we have for Einstein’s theory that time slows down for objects moving at speeds close to the speed of light.”