Rutherford Laboratories - free online events and resources

Dear Parent or Carer


Please see the email below from Rutherford Appleton Labs. It gives you some details and links about a number of virtual events that they are running over the next few weeks. If you are interested in any then please just click the link to register and enjoy. The short biography gives you the age groups for which the event is suitable.


Best regards


Ian Miller

Head of Physics and Director of STEM


We’ve got some new events coming up over the remainder of the summer term, including Thermal Engineering with RAL Space and some interactive talks by our Particle Physics Department.  We know that people aren’t always able to join us for the live events, so you can now also sign up to be sent a link to a recording, so you can watch when you have a moment.


We have some fascinating online events coming up:


  • Thermal Engineering with RAL Space; Tuesday 16 June and Tuesday 30 June at 14:00, Years 7, 8, 9

Space telescopes and satellites need to work well in the challenging environment of space. They have to survive extreme temperatures when they are close to or far away from the Sun so that instruments on board the spacecraft can send back data and images to Earth. Thermal engineers at RAL Space design, make and test protective layers for spacecraft, using knowledge of how heat can be transferred.

Join us to hear directly from an engineer and a technician to learn what thermal engineering is, why it’s important for space missions, and what they do in their day-to-day jobs. Students can ask the engineers questions and complete our challenge to make their own spacecraft insulation at home! 

  • There will be two events: the first on 16 June, where the challenge is introduced, and the second on 30 June – students are encouraged to send photos or videos of their work in, and the winner will be announced at the second event.  This is suitable for KS3 students and will last for around 50 minutes.



  • Exploring inside atoms to understand the universe - Particle physics with Dr. Ben Smart; Thursday 25 June at 14:00, Years 12-13

What's inside atoms? How do the smallest things that make up the universe work? How do we learn new things about them? Come find out the answers, and explore the world of particle physics, with physicist Dr Ben Smart.

This is also a chance for your students to ask any questions about particle physics they may have had from their A-Levels.


  • Scientific Computing at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory; Friday 26 June 14:00, Years 8-13

Join us for a virtual tour around our Scientific Computing facility and hear about some of the fascinating work we do – working with experiments and organisations around the world including the Large Hadron Collider and the Met Office.

We will introduce a challenge for students based on the flexipede – one of the first computer animations in the world, which was created at RAL in 1967.  We’ll ask students to send us their code, and one student will receive a prize of an Arduino Starter Kit.

This is also a great opportunity for students to find out what it’s like to study and work in computing – one of the key skills employers are looking for at the moment!


  • Lasers, chocolate and the moon; Thursday 2 July 14:00, Years 10-13

The Central Laser Facility (CLF) at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is home to some of the world’s leading laser facilities: from advanced laser systems that can pinpoint individual particles to some of the most powerful lasers in the world. At the CLF, we recreate the conditions inside stars, investigate new types of particle accelerator and studying parasites and biophysical processes.

Join us for an introduction to this amazing facility, and an experiment that you can do at home.

This event will take place via zoom webinar. It will last approximately 45 minutes and is suitable for students in Key Stage 4 and 5.  


  • Remote3 Coding Challenges

Every term-time Monday at 11:00 we’re going to be holding a short webinar and introducing a new computing challenge, linked to our sister site the Boulby Underground Laboratory as part of the Remote3 project.

Each week will include a short talk, an introduction to this week’s challenge, and highlighting some of the projects completed as part of the previous week’s challenges.  Last week we had a brilliant talk from Professor Jim Madsen, from the IceCube experiment at the South Pole!

The challenges will be aimed at students aged 9-14, and can all be completed with the free online Scratch programming language (https://scratch.mit.edu/users/Remote3).


  • Royal Observatory Edinburgh: Online talks

Our sister lab, at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, is running a series of weekly astronomy talks.  The next talk, this evening on Monday 9 June at 19:00, is entitled “What keeps astronomers up at night?”: Astronomy is ridiculously ambitious: we are attempting to chart the history of the entire universe. It's only natural that there would be some gaps. Ciaran Fairhurst will talk you through a couple of these "open questions" -- the problem, why it's so hard, and what is being done about it.

You can find more information, and a link to register, online: www.roe.ac.uk/vc/public/astronomy-talks/index.html


Our partners at the University of York are also running a fantastic nuclear physics masterclass for Years 11-13.


  • Join the UK Nuclear Physics Community, coordinated by the Department of Physics at the University of York, for a Nuclear Masterclass.  Find out more about cutting-edge research in Nuclear Physics and applications of nuclear technologies.



We also have some great resources for you:


  • Electronic Resources: Particle Physics Masterclass (Years 12-13)

The lectures from our Particle Physics Masterclass (2020) are online and we have created some ‘follow-along’ worksheets for students to complete while watching them. 

  • The talks can be accessed here: sas.stfc.ac.uk/vportal/index.jsp (Flash player required).  The worksheets (and teacher versions with the answers!) are attached to this email in two sets of zipped files.


  • Spitzer and the James Webb Space Telescope: Home Research Project for students aged 14-18

This home research project has been developed by our sister lab, the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, with the Institute for Research in Schools to find interesting objects from Spitzer to study with the James Webb Space Telescope.  This home project uses Spitzer data from the Magellanic Clouds and has students trying to identify old and young stars.

The project will take around 10 hours to complete in total: students receive a certificate when they finish the activity, as well as feedback on their results.

You can find more information here: http://www.researchinschools.org/, or download the booklet and activity directly:


  • Diamond the Game

Our partners at Diamond Light Source have created Diamond the Game Print and Play: a board game you can print at home, for 2-5 players that lasts between 20-30 minutes. It puts players directly in the role as a researcher at the Diamond Light Source, visiting different beamlines to make progress in a diverse range of scientific projects in Physics, Chemistry, Cultural Heritage, and more.

To find out more and download your free copy, please visit: www.diamond.ac.uk/Public/DiamondTheGame

  • Schools can also apply for a free class set of the board games (to be sent out after the social distancing measures have lifted) to use in careers and science lessons.


  • UK Research into Coronavirus

The UK Research and Innovation, our parent organisation, have pulled together some of work being undertaken in the UK and elsewhere around the world to understand the COVID-19 virus.  Do take a look at it to find out about the work which is being done!

The website coronavirusexplained.ukri.org/en/ is being updated regularly as more advances are being made.


Due to the uncertainty of the coronavirus situation in the country and at the lab, at the moment we are planning on running online, virtual events throughout the autumn term.  We are working on understanding how feasible it is to run socially-distanced tours of our facilities – if it is possible, we will alter some of our autumn-term events to lab-based when we have a better idea of the situation.  We hope to share our plans for the autumn term with you shortly.


In the meantime, we hope you’re keeping well and that you’ll be able to join us online soon!


Take care


The Public Engagement Team at RAL