by Virginia Greco. Published: 08 May 2017

Last April, the high school students who won the treasure hunt “Phyco chasse le trésor”, organized by the Physics Laboratory of Clermont-Ferrand (LPC), France, visited CERN and the ALICE experiment.

Driven by passion and thirst for knowledge and understanding, physicists struggle to unveil the mysteries of nature and to explain how –and possibly why- things around us are the way they are. The research for explanations and solutions to the enigmas presented by physics, by means of experiments as those performed at LHC, can look like a treasure hunt, where the treasure is fundamental knowledge - and a Nobel prize for very few…

Last April for some high school students of Clermont-Ferrand, France, the mere possibility to visit CERN and descend into the experimental cavern of ALICE has been the treasure, where the hunt was a virtual route through scientific enigmas.

This original treasure hunt, called “Phyco chasse le trésor”, has been organized by the Physics Laboratory of Clermont-Ferrand (LPC) - in collaboration with the Direction des Affaires Artistiques et Culturelles of the University Directorate of Clermont-Ferrand – to engage teenagers in science and technology.

A group of researchers and technical staff members of LPC were asked to prepare quizzes for the students that could stimulate their curiosity and show the attractive aspects of working in a laboratory and/or in a big experiment like ALICE.

Eight high school classes subscribed to the contest and undertook the treasure hunt, which consisted in solving a total of seven enigmas that were shared with the participants gradually, two per week. The topics covered in the four weeks of game spanned physics of particles and of the universe, microelectronics, computer science, medicine and cancer therapy.

Only three classes solved all of the enigmas and the one that performed best, of the Lycée Pierre Joël Bonté of Riom, won gadgets of various French laboratories (LPI, CNRS and IN2P3) and a fully-paid trip to CERN.

On April 11-12, the 34 winner students accompanied by their teachers visited our Laboratory and, among other activities, they took a tour of the cavern and the control room of the ALICE experiment. They were followed by two journalists, one of France 3 and one of Radio Campus, who made a reportage of their experience at CERN. The pupils themselves could share their pictures, comments and impressions through social media and a Tumblr account created for the occasion by the communication team of LPC.

The students enjoyed the treasure hunt and even more the visit to CERN, thus LPC has decided to repeat the initiative next year. They are also planning to improve it in order to involve more high schools and classes; in particular, the enigmas will cover a broader spectrum of scientific and technological topics, including biology, chemistry and geology. In addition, the photographic contest, which this year has had little success, will be proposed again but in a better fashion.