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LIGO Hanford Observatory NewsHigh-School Students and Teachers Learn Research Craft at Hanford
Hanford Banquet Celebrates Bake Out Success
A new program at LIGO aims to raise the visibility of science as "process" by involving high-school teachers and students in shoulder-to-shoulder work with professional research scientists and engineers. LIGO is offering this program in cooperation with the Scientist, Student, Teacher (SST) program, developed by Royace Aikin at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). This year's LIGO-SST program is a pilot to test the concept's effectiveness and to work out any bugs. A proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) is in preparation to provide support for future years. LIGO envisions using its national presence to eventually establish similar SST teams at high schools throughout the US.
The key to the SST program is to "spin off" a research project to a high school. The SST teams and their high schools make a multi-year commitment to pursue LIGO research. And we're not talking about "one toe in the water" here, but a jump-in-and-swim program with real deliverables. For instance, the Gladstone High School team shown in Figure 1 at left will analyze LIGO data from interferometers and seismometers to understand how factors like earth tides, ocean-wave activity and temperature cycles affect the stability of LIGO's 4000-meter arms.
Above: The SST team from Gladstone High School. Pictured are (from left to right): teacher Dale Ingram, Andrew Gaynor, mentor Fred Raab, Erin Hewitt, and David Wells.
Team members Andy, Erin and David came to LIGO this summer after completing junior year at their western Oregon high school. This fall they will work with their teacher, Dale Ingram, to set up a LIGO research station at their school and to integrate the team's LIGO research into the physics curriculum at Gladstone. The summer has been busy as the team becomes skilled at the tools of the trade for analyzing LIGO data: basic statistics, instrumentation and computer programming. Additionally the team members need to "bone up" on some very important research skills that might surprise many nonscientists: project management, self-direction, presentation, communication and mentoring skills.
The Gladstone team was just one component of a larger research group of interns directed by Fred Raab this summer--all peeling different layers of the same onion. Eric Morganson, a SURF/REU student just out of freshman year at Caltech, is writing software to analyze the earth tides over the LIGO site. Eric's starting point was to find and adapt an astronomy code describing the motions of the sun and moon relative to earth and then calculate the tidal stretching and shrinking of LIGO's arms if the earth beneath LIGO behaved simply and uniformly. Eric is now "fudging" his model to account for the more complicated realities of the earth's topography near LIGO: small items, like the mountains just past the southwest arm, that make for a pretty view, but not for a simple and uniform landscape.
Once the LIGO arms light up, starting this autumn, the Gladstone team will use Eric's model to discover the correct fudge factors. If the factors come out close to one, then LIGO's low-frequency strain data may be a useful addition to geophysics data bases. However the factors emerge, knowing what they are will help scientists and engineers understand how LIGO is influenced by the fundamentals of its environment.
Pictured at right you see Norm Graham, a teacher from Kamiakin High School, which is about a half-hour's drive from the Hanford 0bservatory. Mr. Graham is developing a second LIGO-SST team that will study man-made sources of noise and their influence on LIGO. The LIGO interferometer can be affected by sources of vibration many miles from the observatory and the Kennewick team will "fingerprint" and analyze such sources as traffic patterns, dam and railroad operations, construction activities, etc., and determine their range of influence. Such data will provide helpful guidance in assessing the potential impacts of future land use decisions on LIGO and possible future high-tech operations in this region. This summer Mr. Graham has worked with the Gladstone team to develop the same basic skill set, and he will recruit student team members from his high school this academic year and return with them next summer.
Good progress has been made toward moving the research into the high schools. With help from a number of LIGO scientists and engineers, the teams have gotten a data pipeline set up. Software running from the LIGO control room is now streaming data from a seismometer in the corner station to a fierce number-cruncher, called the data monitoring tool, that performs high-speed reduction of the raw data and writes conveniently small data files to a web server. From this point the Gladstone and Kennewick High teams can access the reduced data sets over the internet and pursue the less machine intensive but more human-intensive aspects of the data analysis from their high school's computers. Email and regular teleconferences will maintain the "tight" coordination of the research group through the school year. Both high schools have promised to provide research funds, matched by LIGO, to an account to buy supplies, software and other necessities for this phase of the research. Project management plans, as well as contacts with other schools, have been developed with the help of weekly workshops run by educators at PNNL. The first microseism trend data report is being assembled by the Gladstone team, and Mr. Graham is preparing a report on the influence of people walking on LIGO's 28-inch-thick concrete floor that is relevant to siting an optical metrology lab at the observatory.
On an elegant evening in late June, LIGO's Fred Raab, head of the Hanford Observatory, hosted a dinner for all those who had been involved in the successful Beam Tube bake at the Washington site. LIGO employees, subcontractors, and their spouses were all invited to attend.
No other vacuum system has ever been constructed that compares in both size and vacuum quality to the LIGO vacuum system. The two and a half mile long arms, four feet in diameter, each have an internal surface area (the property which determines the performance characteristics of the system) roughly equal to the seating area of the Rose Bowl*. To achieve the desired vacuum, it is necessary to bake the Beam Tubes at a temperature of 150 C or higher for a period of from two to four weeks. This was accomplished by insulating the entire length (see Figure 1 at left) and passing a current of 2000 amps through the Beam Tube walls. The 3000 megawatt-hours of power required in Hanford would probably be sufficient to run 200 typical residences for a year. The Beam Tube Bake in Hanford itself took approximately one year and was completed last May.
LIGO's Bill Althouse, who was Task Leader for the Beam Tube Bake, presented a number of commemorating plaques at the banquet. Shown in the photo at right, Bill (standing at left) awards a plaque to Mark 'Ski' Lubinski, who supervised the Beam Tube Bake. The plaques were inscribed: "Presented in appreciation of your outstanding contributions toward the successful bake out of the Beam Tubes at LIGO Hanford Observatory 1998-1999."
Brief speeches were given by Fred Raab and Bill Althouse, congratulating all involved on the very successful bake. This was followed by comments from some of the subcontractors, who described the LIGO team as professional and expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to work on the project. All the remarks offered were positive and sincere, and it was evident that a genuine camaraderie had developed among the members of the crew.
Toward the end of the evening, amid this fraternalistic, self-congratulatory flurry of wine-induced encomia, Rai Weiss stood and said, to the effect, that it was great for us to pat one another on the back for a job well done, but he wondered if we really understood the significance of what had been accomplished? The successful completion of the Beam Tube Bake at Hanford was not only a formidable technological success but was accomplished using techniques and at a cost that more than one vacuum expert had declared to be impossible.
Clearly, this was a banquet at which pride in a job well done was the tastiest and most enduring course of them all.
*If you estimate that the Rose Bowl benches are about
12 inches (30 cm) deep, with about 18" (50 cm) allotted to each person,
then the seat area is 1500 square cm per person;
x 100,000 persons = 1.5 x 108 cm2.
Each Beam Tube module has a surface area of about 8 x 107 cm2,
so each arm has an area of 1.6 x 108 cm2.