The basic goal of this program is for high-school students to gain a greater understanding of the types of concepts that exist in particle and nuclear physics. It is better for them to understand that, for instance, the Standard Model has limitations, than to perfectly understand everything implied by it.
There will be many efforts to increase student and teacher involvement throughout the coming months, but the culmination of this event will occur during the PANIC conference. The PANIC conference will occur from Sunday July 24th until the 29th. On the 24th, there will be a series of half-hour to forty-five minute lectures for students and teachers to attend to hear about research or topics that interest them.
There will be a poster session during the conference for the students to present what they have learned and discuss their interests with other students. There will also be prizes for those who put particular effort into their presentation and/or research. This will be an opportunity for them to both speak to professors and researchers in these fields, but also to converse with other students who have similar interests.
Teachers are obviously welcome to use this as an opportunity to improve their understanding as well. For working with the students, their task is split into three parts.
I. Motivation. Many high school students, even those who are interested in these topics, will consider themselves too busy or overwhelmed to engage in this event. We need the help of teachers to convince students that this is manageable, worthwhile, and significant.
II. Providing an introduction to material. While it would be great for us to be able to visit every school to give introductory talks, this is not practical. Instead, we look towards the teachers to, knowing the ways that their schools work, use the best possible mechanisms to make this opportunity known, and to give students some understanding of both what particle and nuclear physics are, and what kinds of things they could learn about.
III. Collaboration with us. The teachers work most closely with students on a regular basis, and also understand the mechanisms of their schools. Their input is vital in order to make this successful. Therefore, we would love for teachers to be willing to work with us in both the exact design of this program, and in further developing opportunities for students who wish to become continually more involved.
MIT Grad students, research staff, and/or faculty who wish to involve themselves can do so in a few different ways as well.
I. Mentoring high school students. Most high schoolers have had little or no experience in research, and many have never even been in a lab before. We would like to assemble a large group of graduate students and professors to give students tours of their labs, explain their research, and serve as a resource to help the students better understand the topics they choose to learn about. Mentors are encouraged to use anything they believe will make the experience more exciting and engaging. For those who can, performing demos or allowing the students to do a small experiment would be excellent. The number of mentees each mentor has depends on the interest of both parties, but we are hoping to have no more than six or seven students per mentor.
II. Collaboration. Much like the high school teachers, we value any input from interested professors, research staff, and graduate students.
III. Direct demonstrations at schools. We are hoping to create a traveling exhibit to bring to schools as well as a poster to promote the program. Any professors, research staff members, or graduate students are welcome to offer their ideas for how to make these things, especially the exhibit, more exciting and informative. Ideas for actual demos that could be done without large equipment would be particularly helpful.
Finally, we have the students themselves. There are several options for the students to work on, and they are welcome to choose anywhere from one to all of them. Most of them revolve around a questions list which we have prepared, which includes thought-provoking questions meant to inspire students to research topics of particular interest to them.
I. Posters! We are planning a session at the conference where students can show off everything that they have learned. We will offer various prizes based on the content and presentation of the posters. Though posters to generally exhibit the work that the students have done are necessary, students are welcome to include supplementations like demos, animations, or other ideas if they wish. (Provided, of course, that they are practical and productive.)
II. Mentees. Ideally, we will be able to offer any interested students the chance to work with a graduate student or professor at MIT as a mentor. The mentor would serve as a resource to help the students better understand difficult concepts, and would also be able to give tours of their lab and explain the types of research that they are currently working on. The number of mentees each mentor has depends on the interest of both parties, but we will limit it to more than six or seven students per mentor.
III. Engagement in their own schools! The teachers who are involved in this program may also wish to create demonstrations or events at their own schools, which the students could of course participate in or even help organize to support greater understanding among other students who are not directly in the program. We will offer as much assistance here as we can, including providing some portable demos. (Currently, some MIT faculty have been building a spark chamber that can be brought, without too much effort, to high schools throughout the area.) Even so, it is imperative for the teachers to take an involved role in this step in order for substantial progress to be made.
IV. Learn! There are already lots of great resources on the web, and we have also compiled a list of links to help students find useful resources. Everything from an introduction to the Standard Model to antimatter to neutrino detectors to the proton spin crisis, for beginners who could not understand those words through experts who think they could explain them all.