Visit with a TWIST

Some 40 talented kids from a nearby primary school “invaded” Cosylab one lovely day. You know how kids are, BIG dreams, BIG ideas, limitless minds. We tried to match their imagination with an inspiring talk about BIG science, BIG machines, BIG accelerators, and BIG-BADA-BOOM experiments that mark the future of humanity.

By Robert Modic

We started with some particle physics basics

Kids in action

Through a discussion about accelerators the kids were able to discover which particles can be accelerated and how they are accelerated close to the speed of light. They got feeling of the sheer size of accelerator facilities, and learned why there is a vacuum in the beam lines, how it is possible for particles to travel in a circle, how light is obtained from the beam, and what the beams are used for.

We talked about colliders, light sources, ADS (Accelerator Driven Systems ADS), Proton Therapy (PT) machines and how Cosylab is contributing to the noble goals of these facilities. The kids were just amazing; given a question they were quick to brainstorm, and find a solution to the challenge.

Hey, so why not give the visit a twist and put these bright minds to some use? Well, we did just that…

Designers in a creative mess :)

We challenged the kids to design a Proton Therapy Centre.

First, we discussed how the PT facility works and then we gave them four practical tasks. Teachers helped group the pupils according to their talents. Each group received a task, that would challenge their understanding of the concepts discussed and also require groups to communicate to complete the task:

  1. ARCHITECTS had to draw the surroundings, exterior and interior of the building, the building plan covering the accelerator and hospital premises, the common area, and the irradiation room.
  2. DESIGNERS had to assemble an accelerator from the given parts (vacuum pipes, cavities, power supplies, gantry) and connect them properly.
  3. PROGRAMMERS had to write a pseudo program that would check the prerequisites for treatment and execute the treatment protocol.
  4. OPERATORS needed to calculate the energy consumption of the accelerator and the time to recover from a vacuum failure.
Operators in contemplation and programmers hard at work

What followed was explosion of creative potential. It was interesting to see how group dynamics evolved.

One kid contributed ideas, another became the coordinator of the group, yet another would implement ideas, someone would contribute some healthy criticism or act as a mediator when ideas clashed.

With a little help and guidance, the groups did an amazing job.

Treatment (pseudo) program (left), and design of PT Synchrotron (right)

Don’t miss the next story!

About the Author

Robert Modic joined Cosylab in 2012, first working on a timing system study for RAON. His other projects include ELI-NP, where he was responsible for the complete timing system of the accelerator from writing down the requirements, doing the design and managing the implementation. He is currently the control system task leader for MYRTE, the research and transmutation endeavour of the MYRRHA (Multi-Purpose Hybrid Research Reactor for High-Tech Applications) research facility. In his free time, Robert enjoys spending time out in nature, hiking or cycling with friends and family; enjoying the elements is his way of recharging.

Would you like to try to build a Proton Therapy Center with your kids? Send us an email and we will forward you the instructions.