by Virginia Greco. Published: 12 April 2017

Last March a primary school named “ALICE” was inaugurated in Prévessin-Moëns. The event was animated by scientists of the ALICE experiment and staff from CERN’s Communications group.

Sign at the entrance of the new "ALICE School" in Prévessin-Moëns [Photo credits: Virginia Greco].

On Saturday 11 March a primary school named “ALICE” was inaugurated in the French neighbouring village of Prévessin-Moëns. The name for this brand new, modern and colourful structure was chosen by the municipal council as a tribute to CERN’s ALICE experiment, “which is contributing to a better understanding of the origin of the universe”.

The aim of the members of the council is to introduce the youngest to the fascinating world of science and the wonders of physics in particular. They also want to familiarize the school’s children with the research carried out next door, at CERN. Some of the installations of our Laboratory are indeed located within the commune of Prévessin-Moëns and many inhabitants of the village work at CERN.

Of course this name brings to mind also the famous tale of Alice in Wonderland, a young girl driven by great curiosity and thirst for discovery, similarly to the ALICE experiment. The choice of a female name is also relevant because it brings to the forefront the importance of nurturing girls’ interest in science and encouraging them to study its disciplines.

The event, which saw the participation of many pupils of the school accompanied by their parents, as well as other inhabitants of the village, was animated by scientists of the ALICE experiment and staff from CERN’s Communications group, who volunteered to offer play-and-learn workshops for children.  Peggy Pithioud, of ALICE, coordinated all activities.

Children taking part in the "Sound and Waves” workshop [Photo credits: Virginia Greco].

Very much attended was the “Drôle de Physique” show, during which Dominique Bertola and Federico Antinori made funny experiments on states of matters and basic physics principles, using liquid nitrogen and balloons. So it was the “Sound and Waves” one, where Ludivine Ceard and Philippe Moret explained the propagation of sound waves making kids play with hand-made phones (two cardboard cups connected with a cable), a guitar and other sound apparatuses. The children could also experience a virtual visit of the LHC tunnel using virtual reality goggles provided by Francois Briard.

Three workshops were especially dedicated to playing with the ALICE experiment: children had the possibility to colour sketches of the detector with Paola Malaspina; build a small mock-up of it using LEGO blocks under the guidance of Arturo Tauro; or even build a bigger one made of cardboard with the help of Jurgen Schukraft. Kids and adults interested in learning more about research at CERN and about ALICE could also follow the presentation and explanations given by Despina Hatzifotiadou.

A cardboard mock-up of the ALICE detector built by children (left) and pupils following explanations by Despina Hatzifotiadou (right) [Photo credits: Virginia Greco].

Finally, in another room Pierre Vande Vyvre presented the Cosmic Piano, a system consisting of five particle detectors – plastic scintillators coupled to avalanche photodiodes - that produce light and sound when muons from cosmic rays hit them. The detectors, in this case connected to LED lamps and loudspeakers, are based on the technology used for the ACORDE (ALICE Cosmic Ray Detector) system detector.

Pierre Vande Vyvre explaining how the Cosmic Piano works [Photo credits: Virginia Greco].

Towards the end of the workshops, a conference started in the “Salle du Parc”. Here Boris Hippolyte presented the goals of the research in fundamental physics carried out at CERN and in particular at ALICE and allowed the attendees to peek at the real ALICE detector thanks to a live connection with Chilo Garabatos Cuadrado, who was in the underground cavern.

The ceremony continued with official speeches - by Frederic Bordry, Director of Accelerators at CERN, the Mayor of Prévessin-Moëns and other representatives of the region - and the traditional rite of the ribbon and the discovery of the official plaque of the school. Finally, a buffet under the sun was offered to the participants in the courtyard of the building.

We wish the ALICE school in Prévessin-Moëns to succeed in its aim of inspiring young minds towards research and science and we hope to see some of those girls and boys walking along CERN’s corridors in some years from now.

Boris Hippolyte (left) and Frederic Bordry (right) during their talk [Photo credits: Virginia Greco].


More photos of the event can be found here.