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CERN scientists Pippa Wells and Sabrina Schadegg give the primary schools’ challenge a go

Used to making precise measurements, will Pippa and Sabrina be able to figure out what’s inside the mysterious boxes?

Thursday, 02 September 2021

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Since 2011, schools from Geneva, the Pays de Gex and Haute-Savoie have been receiving strange mystery boxes from CERN. The pupils, aged between 8 and 12, make hypotheses, collect data and use evidence as they set out to identify the contents of the boxes without opening or damaging them.

As the Be a Scientist project celebrates its 10th anniversary, the tables have been turned, as primary-school pupils set a challenge for CERN – and the clock is ticking!

In the utmost secrecy, pupils from Jean de la Fontaine school (Prévessin-Moëns, France) and Cérésole school (Petit-Lancy, Switzerland) have hidden various objects in two boxes that, they hope, will flummox the scientists and keep them busy for the next six months!

After receiving the boxes, Pippa Wells (Deputy Director for Research and Computing) and Sabrina Schadegg (environmental engineer) started their investigations in the radiation protection calibration laboratory of CERN’s HSE unit in Prévessin-Moëns.

While they didn’t identify any particular smells, they did hear some intriguing sounds. Moreover, the French box lost 23 grams in two weeks! What could have evaporated? Something containing water? Maybe Katy Foraz and Andre Henriques will discover what it is in the next episode of the Schools’ challenge!

(Thanks to Pierre Carbonez and his team for hosting us at the Radiation Protection CALibration LABoratory - CALLAB - at CERN)

Pippa and Sabrina receive mystery boxes and start investigating (Video: CERN)

Visit the voisins.cern website for regular updates on the challenge and to read more about the progress of the investigations being conducted by the CERN community.