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Education

Wales gets cosmic ray detector network

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Truly innovative research: Welsh students' major opportunity

A NETWORK of instruments used to detect showers of high-energy particles raining down on Earth, are in the process of being set-up in Wales for the very first time.

The major international project will give schoolchildren the chance to explore some of the most important questions in astrophysics.

The particles, known as cosmic rays, travel from deep space at nearly the speed of light and are thought to originate from the regions around black holes and exploding stars. They’ve been hitting the earth and other planets since the solar system formed.

By detecting cosmic rays, scientists all over the world hope to learn more about some of astronomy’s biggest questions, such as the origin of the Universe, the death of stars, and how galaxies and black holes form. On Earth, observations of cosmic rays have also been used to ‘look inside’ volcanoes, and recently helped discover a large hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza.

A detector is currently under construction in Swansea University, with plans for another at the proposed Oriel Science exhibition centre in Swansea’s city centre. The network’s first detector has already been installed on the roof of Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy near the city centre.

Professor Chris Allton, from Swansea University’s Oriel Science and Department of Physics, said: “We are excited to link with Cardiff and provide a detector array across south Wales for school students to access. It will really help inspire these students to become the next generation of scientists in Wales.”

The team are now exploring the possibility of installing another detector at a school in Wales, as the network will also be used as an educational resource for schoolchildren across the country.

The £93K ‘QuarkNet Cymru’ project is being funded by the Welsh Government’s National Science Academy and links Wales to two major international projects – the “High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics” (HiSPARC) in Europe, and US-based “QuarkNet” programme.

HiSPARC and QuarkNet enable secondary schools and academic institutions to join forces and form a network to measure cosmic rays. They offer students the opportunity to participate in real research, with the purpose of finding out more about these mysterious cosmic particles.

When a cosmic ray encounters the Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a cascade of secondary particles called muons which spread out as they travel to the ground. By using detectors sensitive to muons, the schoolchildren will be able to work with the data to find out information about the original cosmic ray, such as its energy and where it came from in the sky.

From January 2018, schools will be able to loan particle physics equipment from Swansea and Cardiff Universities, with the addition of workshops and presentations to engage the schoolchildren in real-life cosmic ray research.

Dr Paul Roche, from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for school students from across Wales to get involved with some exciting astrophysics, using data taken from our own instruments that are now part of this international research programme.”

Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport commented: “The QuarkNet Cymru project is an excellent example of how, working with global leaders in the field, Welsh Government investment is helping facilitate truly innovative research into some of the most important questions in astrophysics. More locally, it’s particularly pleasing to see such investment enabling QuarkNet Cymru and its network to deliver engaging Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics activities to pupils across Wales.”

Education

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A MASTERS graduate from UWTSD recently won the Student Dissertation category at the prestigious Celebrating Outdoor Learning Awards 2018 ceremony.

John Godley received his prize at the Celebrating Outdoor Learning Awards are presented to Outdoor Learning professionals and organisations in recognition of their outstanding work as well as encouraging excellence.

Scooping the student award, John’s dissertation looked at how disconnection from social media contributes to young people’s experience and learning on a 3-day outdoor education residential.

Celebrating dissertation work completed by students as part of an undergraduate or post-graduate course the category was open to students who had successfully completed their course during the three years to September 2018.

The judges looked for evidence of the choice and focus of the subject; the clarity of purpose and structure; research and review; methodology; analysis and interpretation of results; communication as well as conclusions and summaries.

“I’m really pleased to have won the dissertation award,” says John, a Further Education college lecturer. “The course was a fantastic experience that allowed me to explore issues and perspectives that I had not even known about beforehand. I was able to take part in some really memorable practical experiences which were blended with the academic content and which were great opportunities to meet experts in their fields and the other students on the course. The skills I learned on the course have really benefitted my teaching through the advanced academic and critical thinking skills developed. The tutors’ support has been excellent throughout and they have been central to giving me the confidence to enter the competition.”

In what was a highly contested category, another UWTSD Masters graduate, Anna Gordon, was also highly commended and featured as one of the three category finalists. Anna’s dissertation was an exploration of how women perceive the presence of others to affect their freedom in outdoor activities.

Having both graduated with an MA in Outdoor Education in July 2018, their dissertations were submitted with the support of UWTSD’s MA Outdoor Education Programme Director, Dr Andy Williams who attended the ceremony and collected John’s award on his behalf.
“John’s success in winning the Student Dissertation Award at the national conference for the Institute for Outdoor Learning is a terrific personal achievement and reflects well on his commitment to further study and his competence as an early career researcher,” says Andy.

“The study is highly topical, focussing on how a disconnection from social media on a residential outdoor experience might contribute towards changing attitudes and behaviour around future use.

“I am delighted to say that he has already looked to share his conclusions with a broader audience in Horizons – the professional journal for Outdoor Educators. As important is John’s continuing desire to constantly improve his own teaching and outdoor practice through his involvement with the MA Outdoor Education programme at UWTSD.

Speaking of Anna’s achievement of reaching the final three, Andy is again delighted to see another of his students attain success and recognition on a national level.

“Anna Gordon’s success in being shortlisted for the Student Dissertation Award at the national conference for the Institute for Outdoor Learning is well deserved,” continues Andy.

“At a time when society has reawakened to issues of equality and opportunity Anna’s study is highly topical for Wales and the outdoor community focusing as it does on Women’s perceptions of the presence of others to affect their freedom in outdoor activities.

“Anna’s dissertation success draws from her MA Outdoor Education studies (2016-18) and builds on her previous undergraduate success on the BA Outdoor Adventure Education degree at UWTSD where she studied from 2013-16. Anna lives locally and works as a freelance outdoor instructor with many local groups and organisations. As a graduate of UWTSD we are proud of her academic success and pioneering work as a role model for young women developing a career in the outdoors.”

UWTSD’s Outdoor Education courses are now offered at the University’s new Outdoor Adventure Education Centre in Carmarthen called Cynefin – an accessible hub for the University’s BA Outdoor Adventure Education and MA Outdoor Education students enabling them to further enhance their skills and develop their understanding of Outdoor Adventure.

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Education

Noteworthy £3m for music education

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THE MINISTER for Education, Kirsty Williams, confirmed £3m for improving music services in schools across Wales over the next two years.

The fund aims to increase access and opportunities for children and young people in Wales to learn new instruments and study music. It builds on initiatives such as Anthem and will offer opportunities to ensure the provision of high quality, universal access to musical education for all learners.

£1.5million will be spent in 2018/19, with a further £1.5 million allocated for music services next year. This includes £1million per annum as agreed as part of the two-year budget agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru and £0.5m as announced in yesterday’s final budget allocation.

Local Authorities have received £1.4million via the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) which may be used to support a variety of services including:

• Purchasing new and endangered instruments
• Ensuring all pupils have access to lessons, exams and courses
• Covering costs of attendance at orchestras, choirs and bands
• Initiating a ‘rock and pop’ ensemble
• Supporting music co-operative arrangements
• National Youth Arts Wales has received £100,000 to continue their music services, including youth ensembles.

Kirsty Williams said: “Music is at the heart of our nation’s rich heritage and I am absolutely committed to ensuring all our young people, whatever their background, have the same opportunities to develop their musical talent and reach their full potential.

“Schools will already be delivering musical education as part of our progressive new curriculum, and this additional funding will help break down barriers, such as costs for exams and access to instruments.”

Bethan Sayed AM, Committee Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, said: “I’m pleased by this announcement and that more money has been committed to this than initially proposed in the Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru budget agreement.

“People across the sector, throughout Wales, have been calling for extra, targeted support and I hope that the funding announced will start to reverse the decline we’ve witnessed in music in schools.

“The Education Secretary has worked with me and others in good faith and this is a testament to what can be achieved when there is consensus on an issue.”

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Education

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A COLEG SIR GAR apprentice hairdresser and an aspiring retail designer have proved they have world-class talent following their selection to the WorldSkills UK Squad.

Ellie Hanley, 19 from Haverfordwest, and Phoebe McLavy, 20 from Carmarthen, have both been selected for Squad UK to train for a chance to represent Great Britain in Russia next year at WorldSkills, the globe’s biggest biennial skills competition.

Apprentice hairdresser Phoebe, who is employed by Morgan Edwards in Carmarthen has been successful in a range of regional and national competitions including WorldSkills UK Live, a competition final held every year at Birmingham NEC.

Edward Rees, owner at Morgan Edward has been supporting Phoebe through her competition journey and providing training within his salon. He said: “Two years ago Phoebe began her WorldSkills journey as a young, motivated but very inexperienced hairdresser.
“Through her hard work and dedication to her craft, she has competed all over the country and won several awards along the way.

“Today she is a highly qualified and talented member of the UK Squad and, as a salon, we have committed time and energy into her development and now have an asset in Phoebe.
“I would urge other employers to guide their staff down this exciting career path.”
Phoebe McLavy added: “Competing and training has been an amazing experience which has taken me as far as Budapest and Italy for the EuroSkills training camp and locally, my employer and college are investing in additional training.

Ellie Hanley, who has been selected for Squad UK’s visual merchandising team is also familiar with competition success and has taken part in a range of regional and national events including WorldSkills UK Live in Birmingham where she won a silver medal in 2016. She said: “’Going to WorldSkills Live at the NEC was a truly incredible experience.
“Transforming a plain window booth into a fashion-focused display with hundreds of onlookers was very scary and incredibly pressurising.

“I am overjoyed to have been selected for Squad UK and I cannot wait to get stuck into all the intense training over the next few months.”

The Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales (ISEiW) project is a Welsh Government funded initiative that encourages and supports all Welsh competitors taking part in WorldSkills competitions and offer support across the board, from regional Skills Competition Wales events to international level.

Paul Evans, pan-Wales coordinator for ISEiW said: “It’s a tough competition process but it’s highly supportive of competitors to ensure they are competing at world standard level.
“It’s also a highly competitive process which involves an intense training regime, supported by WorldSkills mentors, employers, training providers and colleges to ensure the very best are selected for Team UK to compete at WorldSkills.”

WorldSkills is the equivalent of the Olympics in skills and the 2017 Abu Dhabi event attracted 1,251 competitors from 59 countries which attracted more than 150,000 visitors.

Coleg Sir Gâr has a reputation for success in competing on a global level since 2009, representing areas including web design, carpentry, plastering and dry lining, restaurant services and hairdressing.

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