Girls' Day 2015: Girls meet X-ray men and women
Seven girls and one boy of ages 10–13 years visited European XFEL on 23 April as part of the Girls’ Day event.
Throughout the day, they learned about the working environment of various scientific and technical jobs. European XFEL Administrative Director Claudia Burger greeted the girls in the morning, saying: “Perhaps today, some of you will get interested in later majoring in science or working in a technical or engineering field.”
After a short introduction to the X-ray free-electron laser project, the students ventured to a spot near the Bahrenfeld Harness Racing Track and 25 metres underground: to HERA South, one of the experiment halls of the former DESY particle accelerator HERA and literally one of the deepest workplaces in Hamburg, used today as a research and development laboratory and test facility for European XFEL. Here the group could get an impression of the sort of work that scientists and engineers do in large-scale research facilities.
After a lunch break, some practical work was in order. One group supported by IT specialists learned how to program software needed to control devices. At European XFEL, this group develops software that will later control the X-ray laser and the experiment stations. For the school kids, the assignment was a little less complicated, but still challenging: adapt a program so that will light up a series of small lights in a predetermined order. The girls took on the task with great success. No less successful was a second group, who used an engineering design program—the same CAD program used for developing the plans for constructing the European XFEL’s instrumentation—to build a virtual structure out of LEGO bricks. Other girls visited one of European XFEL’s optical laser laboratories, and another group used computer simulations to test the limits of the physical strength of a LEGO house.
So did the kids get so interested that they’d like to become scientists? For most, the question comes too early, but all of them found their visit interesting. Eleven-year old Katharina, though, is sure that she’ll want to come back for an internship.