Year 12 Trip to Harwell

Published 9 July 2024

On Wednesday 26 June, we took 22 Computer Science and Physics students to Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell, to take part in their open week. RAL welcomed 2400 students over the course of two days, opening up their facilities for the students to take part in workshops, talks, and tours.

We arrived at 10:45 and went straight into a talk on the Boulby Underground Mine and their search for dark matter. The live feed with a member of the lab team was incredibly interesting as they discussed the various experiments undertaken at the mine, including the Rosalind Franklin Rover, Nuclear Security in conjunction with the AWE, and the use of muons as an early tsunami warning indicator.

After lunch, we were given a tour of the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, where we saw their high-energy particle accelerators and discussed different projects they had undertaken, including the scanning of the hominin skull ‘Little Foot’ – the most complete Australopithecine fossil ever recovered. Verity said “I particularly enjoyed the tour of the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, and learning about the ways in which the site operates and the many complex and important uses of the equipment, that are helping advance our knowledge of the world around us every day.” Upon exiting ISIS, the students had the opportunity to manipulate a large mechanical robotic arm to pick up a rubber duck!

Next up was our computing and electronics workshop. The students were set a challenge to repair the Ada Lovelace, an imaginary spaceship that had damaged critical hardware and software systems following a solar flare. The students had to design and implement hardware and software solution using Arduino microcontrollers and TinkerCAD.

Our final stop was the Wonder Marquee, where the students got hands-on experience with various STEM technologies, including a PlaySeat, VR headsets, and a Hot Wheels accelerator. The students were incredibly positive about the experience, with the overwhelming majority rating the tour of the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source as their favourite part of the trip. Vipul said “The Harwell trip enabled us as students to explore the different aspects of applied Physics and Computer Science in solving real world problems and using resources effectively. I particularly enjoyed the ISIS Muon and Neutron Source tour which was intriguing. It added to the current understanding of the contemporary applications of Neutrons and helped to further developed a deeper understanding of Muon sources.”

It was a very enjoyable and insightful trip, bringing the wonder of STEM subjects and careers to life.