Goucher SPS chapter wins AIP grant to build a cloud chamber

Release date: April 03, 2014

Goucher's SPS (Society of Physics Students) chapter has won a $1,230 research award from the Sigma Pi Sigma honors branch of the American Institute of Physics.  The grant funding will support the construction and use of Goucher's first Cloud Chamber.  Congratulations to the whole chapter, the Physics and Astronomy Club, and in particular, Phoebe Yeoh, Alissa Murray, Chloe Gooditis, and Cody Nelson.

As explained in the grant proposal, "The purpose of this project is to design and build a usable cloud chamber, which is a piece of equipment (Fig 1) that allows viewers to see the tracks made by subatomic particles (Fig 2).  By measuring these tracks, viewers can use physics principles to determine what particles made the tracks, as well as other properties such as the particle's mass and momentum.  We will design our cloud chamber to be compact, and will optimize viewing conditions for proper particle track study and measurement.  Our ultimate goal is for the cloud chamber to be put to academic use in our Modern Physics classroom, as well as in demonstrations and scientific outreach programs.  We plan to both lead and involve multiple Goucher students, including freshman and sophomores, in the design and building process.  Our hope is to give them the experience of collaborating on a long-term scientific research project, develop hands-on skills in equipment design and testing, and practice scientific communication skills.  Once computed, the cloud chamber will remain a permanent piece of equipment for use in Goucher's Physics and Astronomy classes."

Fig 1. A sample cloud chamber (from wikipedia.com) Fig 2. Sample cloud-chamber tracks (from discovery.com).

As of today, most of the equipment has been purchased and our students have been hard at work in our machine shop and Dr. Ali Bakhshai's research lab to construct the components.  We congratulate our students on an excellent proposal (click here for the full text) and look forward to announcing the chamber's first tracks next semester!