ISOTDAQ - where students learn about trigger and data acquisition

Where can students learn to implement a good trigger and to design the data acquisition system for today’s increasingly complex experiments? Universities rarely include classes on such specific topics. The ISOTDAQ School trains students and helps them gain hands-on experience of trigger systems, data-acquisition hardware and software, and data-transfer technologies.


One of the commercially available FPGA development boards from Altera. This was used in one of the practical exercises at ISOTDAQ2011 to teach students the principles of FPGA programming.

The second International School of Trigger and Data Acquisition (ISOTDAQ) was held from 9 to 16 February at the Physics Department of Rome University, ‘La Sapienza’. The School was jointly organised and sponsored by CERN, INFN, ACEOLE (a Marie Curie Initial Training Network at CERN), and National Instruments. This year almost fifty students took part in the School.

“Leading experts in the field gave lectures on various topics, such as trigger systems, data-acquisition hardware and software, and data-transfer technologies,” explains the organiser, Enrico Pasqualucci, an INFN researcher and the ATLAS Muon DAQ Coordinator. “The aim of the School is to provide a balance between theory and practice, so the lectures were accompanied by twelve lab sessions, each lasting about two hours.” The preparation and execution of the lab sessions involved sixteen tutors, mostly from CERN’s Physics Department, including eight Marie Curie Fellows from ACEOLE.

ISOTDAQ school students during a lab session.

Through the ISOTDAQ labs, participants gained practical experience in the topics covered by the lectures. “Learning by doing was the motto of the School,” said Markus Joos, leader of the practical lab sessions. “The feedback we received from the students was extremely positive with respect to both the scientific quality of the programme and the atmosphere. The school was a learning process for all of us, the students and the tutors alike. One of the most challenging aspects about being a tutor in this School is to work with students from all over the world, from different backgrounds and cultures. For me, teaching does not only mean imparting knowledge, but also networking with the next generation of TDAQ experts.”

After a first edition in Ankara in 2010 and now Rome, the School will continue to be an annual event.

by CERN Bulletin