What Ollie Brown did with his prize money…

 won the Particle Physics Zone in March 2015. Here he fills us in on how he’s been using his £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply

I was lucky enough to be selected for the I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here Particle Physics zone, and emerge victorious! It was a really great two weeks, and I had a lot of fun engaging with both the students, and my fellow scientists Yelong, Vicky, Michele, and Jackie who provided stiff competition! So what have I been up to since then..?

The LEGO Watt Balance

I decided to use the prize money to buy the components for a LEGO Watt Balance. It took a little while (mostly because I had to learn how to order stuff to the University) but all the parts are now here, and we hope to enter the final build/testing phase very soon!

Ollie Brown outreach project 1

Look how much joy this is already bringing to immature PhD students!

Alright you say, but what is it, and what are you going to do with it? Well, dear reader, a Watt balance is a device that pits gravity and electromagnetism against each other. It allows the user to either very precisely weigh an object (if they know the value of Planck’s constant), or to determine Planck’s constant (if they know the weight of an object).

Planck’s constant is a very special number that determines the scale at which quantum physics (the kind I research) happens, so it’s super exciting that such a (relatively) simple device can be used to calculate it! Once we’ve finished putting it together, the plan is to take it round science festivals and schools here in Scotland, get people to calculate Planck’s constant for themselves, and use it as a fun way to introduce quantum physics!

Only Scotland? 🙁

Well I’m originally from near London, so I’m down that way occasionally, but it’s a bit tricky to get the watt balance on the train… That said, if it’s the sort of thing that interests you could always think about building your own! In particular if you’re a science teacher at a school, this is exactly the sort of project you can apply to the Institute of Physics to fund (http://www.iop.org/about/grants/school/page_38824.html) and the design, parts list, and software to run the experiment are freely available here:  http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.1699 …jus’ sayin’.

"You can build me too!"

“You can build me too!”

I’d like to say a great big thank you once again to the IAS team, as well as all the students who voted for me last March. I had a lot of fun, and I’ve even learnt some new things about particle physics and building experiments myself!

Posted on November 23, 2016 by modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports. Leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *