Engineering Students Explore Largest Particle Accelerator in North America

Engineering Students Explore Largest Particle Accelerator in North America

April 19, 2018 |

Just outside of Chicago, there is a 6,000 acre preserve that houses something magnificent. As East Central College Engineering/Math Academic Advisor Linda Arrington puts it – it merges science and architectural beauty.

“We raised funds for two years to go on this trip. It is something students really looked forward to,” said Arrington.

It’s called the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and it is home to Tevatron – the largest proton accelerator in North America.  After the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, it’s the second largest in the world.

According to its website, the purpose of the facility is to expand humankind’s understanding of matter, energy, space and time, capturing imaginations and inspiring future generations.

During Spring Break, students from East Central College took a peek inside.

“I learned there are a lot of things particle accelerators can do for us,” said engineering student Zachary Bartels. “We were told someone was working on a particle accelerator to harden asphalt quicker. I had no idea.”

Though Tevatron was shut down in 2011 after 26 years of colliding particles, the facility is still home to seven other particle accelerators used for research and development.

“This visit was pure science,” said Arrington. “Students were able to see the scale and scope of the super magnets the accelerator used. They also got to experience what it would be like to work in an environment where exciting and innovative research takes place.”

“The trip gave us insight about the applications of a particle accelerator,” said engineering student Cody McWay. “While learning about these applications, we observed how we, as future engineers, could possibly be integrated into that environment. A plethora of electrical, mechanical and civil engineers are necessary for the physicists to be able to build these machines, buildings, and circuits to be able to study how these particles interact at velocities near the speed of light.”

Students also visited an Exxon Mobil Refinery in Joliet, Illinois during the trip.

“This was a rare opportunity,” said Arrington. “A refinery is not usually open for visitors. Students got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see major unit operations in real-time.”