by Despina Hatzifotiadou. Published: 30 April 2011

The International Particle Physics Outreach Group, IPPOG, held its first meeting in Košice, Slovakia, on 14-16 April.

IPPOG is the evolution of EPPOG, the European Particle Physics Outreach Group, created in 1997 under the joint auspices of the European Committee for Future Accelerators (ECFA) and the High Energy Particle Physics Board of the European Physical Society (HEPP-EPS). It is a network of scientists working in particle physics and involved with outreach and informal education activities.

Bartolomej Cisár

The first IPPOG meeting - an audience with the deputy mayor of Košice in the Town Hall.

The members of IPPOG are national representatives from the CERN member states, from CERN and DESY, from the LHC experiments, and some from non-member states (USA). It holds two meetings every year and acts mainly as a forum of exchange of ideas and information concerning outreach activities in particle physics.

In the recent meeting in Košice the first session was devoted to the International Particle Physics Masterclasses. This year LHC data were analysed for the first time, replacing the LEP data used until recently; four new exercises, proposed by ALICE, ATLAS and CMS, were on offer.

It was a new experience for all involved and its outcome was very positive, even though the eternal sceptics were justifiably worried: both the preparation of the material and the training of the instructors had been done under time pressure. From the feedback presented it became clear that more work needs to be put into the development of the exercises; the ever increasing number of participants (more than 8000 students this year) and their enthusiasm makes it worthwhile.

Extending membership to IPPOG will be a natural step forward, enriching the group with new experience and ideas. Including other laboratories and other disciplines related to particle physics (neutrinos, astrophysics…) was extensively discussed and will be followed up. Various proposals for the IPPOG logo were also presented.

The IPPOG database, designed and created by Lisa Mc Carthy, was presented. The idea behind it is to have a single place where all those involved with particle physics outreach and informal education can find all sorts of material (films, photographs, brochures, slideshows, books etc), properly documented. The database is still in the very first, experimental phase, but already it contains useful stuff. Those who have or are aware of useful outreach material are encouraged to contact their IPPOG representative for inclusion in the database.

Another idea, that became the topic of heated discussions, was the “Discovery Packages”. When LHC discovery results are announced (Higgs, Supersymmetry, Quark Gluon Plasma “rediscovered”), material will be needed by journalists, teachers etc. We need to have it ready, in one place, to explain the physics, its importance, its history, how we observed it etc. A lot of support material exists already; it has to be identified, organised and presented in a coherent way, probably through dedicated web pages.

Many presentations by national and experiment representatives covered a variety of topics. We heard about various outreach activities in Portugal; the Cascade program in Slovakia, where high-school pupils make 20-minute presentations to their class on particle physics related topics – and enter a competition for the best presentation; the CERN travelling exhibition in Denmark, which was used as a tool for teaching high-energy physics to high-school students; various outreach activities in Austria, including a 3D movie on LHC filmed in January during the technical stop; and e-learning with LHC data in the US. The list is not exhaustive, and is only meant to give a flavour.

The meeting was hosted by the Slovak Technical Museum. We thank the Museum for their hospitality. A big thank you is also due to Ivan Melo of the University of Žilina, Alexander Dirner of the Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Košice and the other local organisers for their warm welcome.