Scientists create app that helps students build their own virtual particle accelerator

In line with the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, scientists from the Cockroft Institute launch Star Wars-themed ice-breaker to get young students interested in tech

The latest installment of the Star Wars franchise – The Rise of Skywalker  – hits UK cinemas next week, and in line with its release, scientists have developed an app that allows students to build their own Star Wars-themed virtual particle accelerator.

Part of the University of Liverpool‘s big data training project LIVDAT, researchers hope that acceleratAR will help inspire a passion for STEM-based subjects among primary school students.

“Most people would recognise a lightsaber from Star Wars, so with the imminent release of The Rise of Skywalker, we thought there would be no better way to share our work in accelerator science than setting it against iconic scenes from the films to highlight its future potential,” said Professor Welsch, head of communication for the Cockroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology.

School pupils from across Liverpool came to the university campus to take part in a Star Wars-themed event, organised by the Cockroft Institute. Professor Welsch saw it as the perfect opportunity to show the next generation how science and tech discovery can be used to shape the future.

To demonstrate this, researchers created a sphero Star Wars droid racetrack for pupils to enjoy. After downloading the app on their mobile phones, students can race their sphero droids against each other on an actual Star Wars-themed race track.

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On top of this, students can produce their own holographic messages and use acceleratAR to build their own virtual particle accelerator.

“In our research, we use particle accelerators to produce antimatter in a laboratory environment and this allows us to probe the most fundamental laws of nature,” Professor Welsch explained

“Today there are almost 50,000 particle accelerators in operation worldwide, in a wide range of industrial and medical applications. Our research helps optimize these machines to the benefit of science and society.”

In another part of the project, scientists launched the Beat Saber game which allows students to use lightsabers to slice virtual cubes using VR headsets and controllers. The game is set to music and displayed on the GFLEX main screen so that others can enjoy the experience.

Professor Welsch commented: “As the voice-over of Luke Skywalker says in the latest film trailer, ‘We’ve passed on all we know’, and that’s exactly what we’re hoping our […] event will do: help inspire the next generation of scientists and researchers to dream about what they might be explaining to others in 40 years’ time!”

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