Exploring the Hadron Collider

Nineteen post-16 students jetted off to Geneva during the Easter holidays to visit the Hadron Collider at CERN in a trip that proved to be more than their money’s worth. Mr. Grant, Mrs. Jackson and Mr. Gillson accompanied students as they explored inner workings of the Hadron Collider, the coolant system and learnt about the history of the whole CERN project.

Leaving really early in the morning of the 29th, we arrived at Manchester Airport and after a brief safety talk split up to explore duty free, the variety of breakfast providers and for one of our students, Will, spotting the planes.

The flight was relatively quick and we arrived in Geneva with the sun shining, the beginning of a great week. Off-loading out luggage at the youth hostel, we made our way to the ICT Discovery centre, for a brief tour of the history of ICT, including the launch of the very famous Sputnik. Students participated in a game around cyber-laws, took several pictures before returning back to the hostel for a few hours sleep.

The evening meal was at Les Brasseurs, although not too far from the hostel, we decided since we were tired from the early departure, we would grab the tram, which was free. In fact, we were happy all public transport was free throughout the trip. Following a good meal, we each had some free time to explore Geneva before bed.

The next day, we visited CERN, first in the morning was the microcosm, the history of CERN, followed by lunch in the CERN restaurant and a guided tour of the Synchrocyclotron (SC) – the first collider used at CERN, now retired. It was a great light show, telling the history of the SC. We heard from past physicists who worked at CERN in those early days. We were then taken across the border to France where the cryogenic labs are and were given a tour of the coolant system allowing the conductors to be supercooled.

The evening meal was at Edelweiss Restaurant. Decorated like an alpine lodge, the restaurant was a place of fun and good music. Will, Mr. Grant and Mr. Gillson had a blow of the lone horn with varying degrees of success, but were clearly shown up by the 5 or 6 year girl who had clearly blown it before!

The following day, our last planned day, allowed us to visit the Red Cross museum in the morning. This, I found, was an incredibly humbling experience. Four areas plus an art gallery showing the work and history of the Red Cross, Red Crescent organisation throughout the world. There was areas where flood victims told their story, work the Red Cross do to help those victims. One area included a game for multiple players with the aim of saving as many villagers from an oncoming Tsunami. Another area, looked specifically at the history of the Red Cross, with a museum of artefacts made by prisoners of war. We learnt the Red Cross is the only organisation allowed to pass through to prisoners of war without question. Some of the artefacts were spectacular. We learnt about how the Red Cross admitted they had done things wrong during the Second World War and the genocide of Jews. We saw the original Red Cross flag hung up on display, together with outfits worn by workers and volunteers. Another area was dedicated to the memory of war victims, including the entire war records from World War Two. There was a wall of over 100 children who were made orphans during the Bosnian war and other accounts from witnesses from throughout the world.

A truly humbling experience indeed. The tour was scheduled for an hour, the last students arrived back at the start two and half hours later.

Following a picnic lunch, we were fortunate to have a guided tour of the United Nations building. A spectacular designed building and gardens, together with elaborately designed rooms. We were allowed to have a quick look in one of the most important rooms of the building that was being prepared for discussions about the refugee crisis. The walls were beautifully designed with history of the UN.

We were also taken to the large discussion room where the roof has been designed to look like the bottom of the sea as a sign that all are equal no matter where they come from. We were told the history of the UN, the flag and some of the work currently being done by the UN.

That evening we were scheduled to return home, but flights were cancelled and from this point things changed. Students were, however, strong and in high spirits whilst we sat together on the floor of the airport and then at the reception of the hotel. Once placed in a 4 star hotel, we were given tea and went straight to bed. News came on the Friday morning that the next flight home would be Saturday morning, so whilst I organised evening meal on the Friday, students went shopping and to the Natural History Museum.

It was a fantastic trip, one I plan to put on again in a couple years.

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