American high school students shine a spotlight on CERN

Between 2 and 7 April eighteen American high school students were let loose at CERN armed with video cameras. Their mission? To take on the role of broadcast journalists and inspire their peers across the US with short documentaries and blogs illuminating the work happening at the world’s most powerful particle accelerator.

Members of the teams of budding physicists and broadcast journalists pose in front of the ATLAS detector.

Following in the footsteps of professional journalists around the world, six teams of American high school students recently travelled to CERN to experience the increasing excitement in the run-up to the switch-on of the LHC. The six teams are from five states across the US and were the winners of a competition sponsored and funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Science Foundation.

Each team consists of three students plus a teacher, who combine their knowledge of physics, communication and video production to produce a short film. The teams interviewed physicists involved in the LHC and the four big experiments as well as getting footage from the Open Days.

The students hope to get across the mind-blowing scale of the LHC in their films, something that they themselves had not fully appreciated before their visit. "I knew it was big, but it was kind of overwhelming. I’d heard CMS was ‘compact’ and I expected something the size of this room, but it was enormous," explained Kaitlin Cunningham, a student at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Florida.

All the teams are aiming for a wide but youthful audience for their films. Educating young people and inspiring them to study science is something that is very important to them, as it is to physicists at the LHC. "We’re trying to make something for everyone from 5 years to 18 years of age," said Nathaniel Amos, also from Tallahassee, Florida.

The teams are nothing if not ambitious, hoping that the films will reach as many people in the US as possible. "We’ve contacted a major student-produced US TV channel and also a local channel in Texas, which we hope will use an additional documentary about the LHC that we’ll make when we get home," explained Hong Thai, a student at J. Frank Dobie High School in Houston, Texas.

The finished films will be available at: