by Polly Bennett. Published: 11 November 2011

A meeting of IPPOG, the International Particle Physics Outreach Group, was held at CERN on Friday and Saturday last week. Representatives from each of the CERN member states and CERN experiments discussed the successes and issues of their past year’s particle physics outreach activities.

IPPOG


IPPOG consists of scientists, educators and others whose aim it is to support physics education and the understanding of particle physics research through communication and sharing resources. The meeting focused heavily on reviewing and improving their core outreach activity, International Masterclasses, for 2012. In these, 16-18 year old students from schools across the globe can simultaneously be a scientist for the day at local universities. They analyse real data from the LHC, learn about what it is to do research on matter and forces, and explore the methods used. David Barney, IPPOG Co-Chair, commented, “the International Masterclasses were a great success in 2011 and the challenge of using real LHC data was met with aplomb. The kids are getting a real feel for cutting-edge physics in an enquiry-based activity and it is clear this idea is really taking off, with other countries wanting to be involved and ideas for ‘roadshow’ masterclasses.” ‘Roadshow’ classes were proposed in the UK to bring physics outreach to schools with little or no access to higher education institutions, where Masterclasses traditionally take place.

Despina Hatzifotiadou, outreach coordinator for the ALICE experiment, said “the Masterclasses are one of the central and most visible activities of IPPOG. I hope that many ALICE members organise such events in their home institutes and show high-school children how to look for strange particles with ALICE.”

Other poignant issues discussed included aiding developing nations with particle physics outreach activities and extending the international membership of IPPOG. Croatia, Ireland and New Zealand are new countries to take part in Masterclasses in 2012. Several IPPOG members also stressed the increased use of the IPPOG Outreach Database, which holds material such as brochures, posters, hands-on exercises and talks for physics education for many audiences and age levels.

The meeting also held a joint session with EPPCN, the European Particle Physics Communication Network. This session was devoted to communication strategies increasing and improving particle physics coverage in the media and to wider audiences. Such strategies included beautiful, new animations for ‘invisible’ concepts such as quarks, and Discovery Packages, in which high quality background content is prepared and made available for audiences, such as the news media, in anticipation of major discoveries.

David Barney commented that although IPPOG’s collaboration with EPPCN is growing, it is also “evident that more regular contact is needed in order to make significant progress. This is a big challenge as most IPPOG members are also full-time researchers.”

More information about IPPOG and its outreach database for particle physics and related sciences can be found at: ippog.web.cern.ch/ippog