WIPAC hosts after-school program in person

High school students posing in front of a sign
Participants of IceCube After School 2023. Credit: Ellen Bechtol

After two years of virtual offerings, the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) hosted its flagship “IceCube After School” program in person this year. During the eight weekly meetings, 16 high school students in the Madison, Wisconsin, area heard from speakers first-hand about their career paths and contributions to astrophysics and neutrino research.

“In IceCube After School, participants have the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge physics research, meet scientists, and find out about career pathways in physics,” said Ellen Bechtol, outreach specialist at WIPAC who helped organize and run IceCube After School. “We often hear from participants that the program gives them a better understanding of what a career in science could look like for them, and that is an important outcome of the experience that is only possible through our wonderful guest speakers.”

Since 2013, WIPAC has offered an educational program for high school students in person at least once a year. However, due to COVID-19, it shifted to virtual programming the last two years. With restrictions easing this year, WIPAC was happy to resume in-person programming. 

Participants learned about the IceCube Neutrino Observatory and were introduced to topics such as data taking, statistics, and computer programming. Students also had hands-on experience collecting and analyzing data with their own table-top Cosmic Watch muon detectors. When asked what students most enjoyed, they noted that “hearing from guest speakers” and “interacting with staff” was the most impactful part of the program.

“Working with high school students is always refreshing but this group was especially engaged,” said Jim Madsen, WIPAC interim director and associate director for IceCube education and outreach. “Their enthusiasm made the experience memorable and was greatly appreciated by the guest speakers.”