QuarkNet Logo QuarkNet

The QuarkNet program is national in scope and funded by the National Science Foundation through a grant to the University of Notre Dame. The main purpose is to provide professional development to high school physics teachers in particle physics content and methods. QuarkNet is organized into Centers at universities or laboratories where one or more particle physicists mentor, on average, about ten teachers. In addition, the QuarkNet staff provides professional development opportunities as well as activities that teachers can do with their students. In this way, teachers can excite their students about physics by bringing their learning to the cutting edge and help them understand how physics works by engaging in authentic experiences with actual experimental particle physics data.

Computation to analyze such data has been recognized from the beginning of QuarkNet as vital to this kind of learning. Early in the program, which started in 1999, QuarkNet used spreadsheets – then a relatively new technique for classroom practice – to enable analysis of large datasets and introduce computational thinking. In more recent years, the introduction of python notebooks has enabled direct coding by teachers and their students. The QuarkNet Data Camp, held each year for a week at Fermilab, is the flagship QuarkNet professional development activity to introduce teachers to particle physics. Data Camp started with using spreadsheets to analyze CMS data but now mostly has teachers code the analysis. Coding Camp (now Coding Camp 1) was established in 2020 to give teachers more direct experience in coding not only CMS data but other data that they can access online. The new Coding Camp 2 dives deeper and gives teachers who have participated in Coding Camp 1 the chance to gain expertise and become ready to learn about advanced topics like machine learning, AI, and quantum computing that are now at the fore in particle physics.

IRIS-HEP is collaborating with QuarkNet to sponsor Coding Camp 2 at Fermilab for approximately 24 teachers this summer and develop and run Introduction to Machine Learning workshop and hack-a-thon events throughout the academic year. Curricula will be developed by QuarkNet in collaboration with IRIS-HEP members.

Data Camp

IRIS-HEP Area Lead for SSC, Sudhir Malik providing training to teachers at QuarkNet Data Camp