21st June 2013

Below is the account of Hyndland School's recent school trip to CERN, Geneva which took place in April 2013, organised by Adaptable Travel.

Day 1

It was an early start in the cold - we met at 5.30am outside the school and everyone was on time. The bus arrived promptly and we were on our way to Edinburgh before 6am. The journey was comfortable and we were in the airport in good time. Unlike our skiing colleagues, the flight departed on time and we landed in Geneva around 12.30 local time. The rendevous with Gregor, fresh from the ski slopes, was as planned and with our free travel tickets we set off to the hostel. After a few false starts and more trips up and down the escalator than was absolutely necessary - Mr Swan will explain - we were on the No. 15 tram to the hostel. We headed straight out to lunch and the Geneva treasure Hunt which took us on a fantastic sight seeing/walking tour of the city.

Day 1– The Evening

The general consensus is that we are all knackered, so the evenings activities have involved chatting, blogging, filling forms and planning tomorrows excursions. The thunder and lightning also dampened our enthusiasm for a Chocolat Chaud and we have hung out in the Youth Hostel.

Day 2 – The Morning

Getting up was a challenge for most - Mrs Hayes and Mr Swan gave several alarm calls and some made it down to breakfast for 8am. Duncan won the last to breakfast award by some margin but it was much later in the morning before he actually woke up. The day started with a tram to the Palace of Nations and we are all very impressed with the transport system here - it is very easy to travel around. We had a guided tour of this fascinating building which houses the United Nations in Europe. It is here that world diplomacy is at work on issues such as disarmament, telecommunications, intellectual property, labour rights, world trade, world health to name but a few.

There are examples of world collaboration and commitment to the UN almost everywhere. We saw: -The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, decorated by famous artist Miquel Barcelò. -The Salle des Pas Perdus, from which you can see the Armillary Sphere and the monument commemorating the conquest of outer space. -The Assembly Hall, the largest room in the Palais des Nations. -The Council Chamber, where many important historical negotiations have taken place, with murals by José Maria Sert. -A film on the activities and the objectives of the United Nations Office. -Gifts presented by various countries to the United Nations Office at Geneva. -The tour guide also told us about the history of the Palais des Nations, formerly the headquarters of the League of Nations. Everyone was impressed with what they learned this morning. After lunch in Geneva, we headed out to CERN to visit the Globe of Innovation and Microcosm exhibitions.

Day 2 – The Afternoon

This afternoon was spent at CERN looking at the Microcosm Exhibition and the Globe Universe of particles exhibition. This was by way of preparation for the guided tour and gave us great insight to the work being done by thousands of scientists both here and around the world, the engineering challenges of building the infrastructure and assembling the detectors and the benefits to society which are a direct result of this international collaboration. In the Globe, we were able to see Peter Higgs' famous paper, the first electron cyclotron which we can compare to the accelerators we have now, a spark chamber which reveals cosmic rays - a much more dramatic effect than the cloud chambers we built in the lab at school, and even the first web server - still with Tim Berner-Lee's notice 'do not switch off'.

The most popular exhibit, by far, was the interactive table showing the accelerator chain with pop-ups for more information on each of the experiments. From the infinitely large to the infinitesimally small, Microcosm gives the key to understanding the secrets of matter. In this exhibition we saw some of the massive apparatus used by physicists to explain the mysteries of the universe. It described the accelerators and detectors showing how each part works! We have had a taste of what tomorrow has to offer - we are off to France and underground to the CMS experiment!!! We dined tonight at 'On Y Mange Poulet'. There were some hungry teenagers at the table and only bones were left. It is early to bed as we have an alarm call at 6.30am and breakfast at 7. We should have mentioned that the winners of the Geneva Treasure Hunt were Mairi, Shannan, Ruairaidh, Maxence and Jonathon. Each were presented with a souvenir pen from CERN. Mrs Hayes assured then it was a lucky Physics pen and should be used in all Physics exam.

Day 3

CERN tour It was an early start this morning – a struggle for some it has to be said. We were out of the hostel by 8am and on our way to CERN. We started with an introductory talk from Bill Murray who works on the Atlas experiment – they are the ones who discovered the Higgs Boson – and a film clip explaining what happens at CERN. We were then taken by coach to the super conducting magnet test facility. Here, we were able to see inside the collider itself and could identify the beam tubes, the magnets, the steel holding it all together etc. With two beams of protons travelling in different directions – well, actually pulses - you need a very strong electric field to accelerate them and a very strong magnetic field to focus the beams and a very strong magnetic field to keep them travelling in a circle. This all needs a very high current – 10,000 Amperes, if I remember correctly – so everything gets very hot. We need it to be superconducting so everything is cooled to 1.8K, which is colder than space. This is done with liquid helium. We were all fascinated with the Physics and with the engineering which has made the experiments possible. We again travelled by coach, this time to the CMS cavern. The driver directed our group through a door where we should find our guide. There were 5 or 6 engineers who stared at us and we waited, and waited but no guide.

I spoke to the Americans in our group who had led the way into the CMS facility to make sure we were in the correct place. They had spoken to the engineers but did not speak French so were none the wiser. Maxence to the rescue! A quick chat in French, a couple of phone calls and we were united with our guides. Hard hats on and we descended into the CMS cavern 100m below the surface. With the LHC switched off, the CMS equipment was opened for maintenance and again we were able to see inside the detector and could identify the parts used to track and identify particles produced in the collisions. The detector is 15m in diameter and is described as compact! Once again, we were overwhelmed at the scale of the experimental work here in CERN. We lunched in the CERN restaurant spotting potential nobel prize winners, counting the number of languages and being seriously impressed at the quality of the food in their ‘fuel zone’ We left CERN around 4pm and had a couple of hour to unwind before going out to dinner. Maxence, Ruaiaridh, Mairi and Mr Swan opted for the Cheese fondue. Mr Swan felt his arteries narrow with every dip of the bread but did not give up and the 4 fonduers made it to the bottom of the pot. The fondon’ts dined on pizza and a good night was had by all. There was much laughter and skipping as we made our way back to the hostel for the last night.

Day 4 

A more relaxing start to the day with breakfast at 8am. Still too early for some! We set off at 10am in the Geneva sunshine and strolled through the Parc Mon-Repos to the History of Science museum. After CERN it felt like going from the sublime to the ridiculous - from the latest in Science and engineering to the very beginning. We saw the first battery made by Italian Physicist Volta, the actual apparatus used by Coulomb to establish the force between charged objects and many other superb examples of early telescopes, measuring instruments and electrostatics apparatus. We played with the Magdeburg Hemispheres in the gardens and have some excellent photographs of Gregor and Maxence demonstrating the effects of air pressure. We took a boat ride across Lake Geneva to the Left Bank and strolled along the promenade and wandered through the old town to find sandwiches for lunch before settling down for a picnic in the Jardin Anglais.

With a couple of hours free time, most settled in the parc playing cards, Mr Swan set off for a game of chess at the Promenade de Bastion and Mrs Hayes went shopping for a monkey! Three wins at chess and one monkey later we were all back at the parc and the new game was touch rugby with a bouncy ball found in the parc. So nice to see a group of young people having fun and enjoying each other’s company. We met up with Elsa who had spent some time at Hyndland and lives in Geneva and after some catching up and reminiscing, we headed back to the Hostel to collect our luggage for the journey home. It was a 4 minute train ride from the centre of Geneva to the Airport, a snack for those who had money left to spend, security check, passport control, a quick panic that Maxence had dropped his ID card and we were on the flight home. Everyone had a superb trip. There are lots of photos to see, stories to hear, video diaries to watch and bags of dirty washing to unpack. The pupil were a fantastic group - polite, considerate, appreciative and a real credit to the school, themselves and their parents. I wish them every success for the future and hope this trip has inspired them to work in the field of Science & Engineering and realise their full potential.

To organise your next school trip to CERN, contact Adaptable Travel today.

Written by Mrs Hayes, Group Leader 

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