Published: 26 April 2015

On 28 March 2015, the Department of Nuclear Physics in collaboration with the Community Interaction and Training team joined the rest of the world in hosting the 11th International Particle Physics Masterclass: hands on particle physics at iThemba LABS.

This event, organised and presented by local physicists and postgraduate students from iThemba LABS and the University of Cape Town working on the ALICE experiment at CERN, was opened by Dr R M Nchodu (Manger Department of  Nuclear Physics, iThemba LABS). This year a total of 21 grade 11 and 12 learners from 12 different schools around the Cape Penisula participated. They were introduced to the fundamentals of particle physics, particle accelerators and detectors through a lecture given by Dr Tom Dietel (Department of Physics, UCT and Team Leader of SA-ALICE). This was followed by a hands-on session: “Looking for strange particles in ALICE“ where the learners utilized the same tools used by physicists to analyze real data from the LHC. This session was chaired by Ms Sibaliso Mhlanga (MSc student, UCT) with the assistance of Ms Nomvelo Dindikazi (MSc, UZULU), Mr KJ Senosi (PhD, UCT) and senior reseachers: Drs. Zinhle Buthelezi, Siegie Förtsch and Deon Steyn from iThemba LABS.

Each learner had a unique opportunity to interact and work with a learner from another school, engage with the local physicists, including the Prof. Jean Cleymans (UCT / iThemba LABS) who was also present. In true “large collaboration” fashion and after having discussed their results on their own, the learners elected Ms Erin Sinclair from Rhenish Girls High School to represent them during a teleconference session with international high schools from Warsaw (Poland) and Cairo (Egypt). The teleconference session hosted by two moderators at CERN included a little “quiz” at the end. The event was closed off just after Mr Ambrose Yaga (Manager CIT, iThemba LABS) presented each learner with a certificate of participation. As can be seen in the photos, it was a fun-filled and informative day. The learners “loved” working with real data from the LHC - they found it both challenging and rewarding. Their interest and curiousity was certainly “piqued”!

Much appreciation is sent to Mr Ronald Engelbrecht (Western Cape Department of Education) for his support. We would like to thank all the schools: Bishops, COSAT, Herzlia, Rhenish Girls, SACS, Wynberg Boys, Phandulwazi, Ocean View, Masiphumelela, Spine Road, Oval North, Strandfontein, Zeekoeivlei, Vuyiseka S.S and Intsebenziswano S.S, for participating.