Particle Physics: a Physics Kit

This resource, produced by SEPNet and Queen Mary University of London, uses Lego to represent the building blocks of matter. Different colour Lego bricks are assigned to different quarks and leptons. The quarks can be put together to make hadrons, such as protons and neutrons. The blocks can also be used to show particle interactions and decays. There is also a PowerPoint presentation, which shows the types of particles and decays and touches on conservation laws, and the forces between the particles. This PowerPoint can be used with students in class. More detail is provided in the pdf document, which also contains rules for colour combination, an interactions quiz and beta-decay in detail. The MS Word document contains teacher notes on the PowerPoint presentation. It also contains Lego versions of Meson and Baryon octects, and shows some examples of decays and interactions using diagrams and Lego bricks.

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This activity, along with the two other LEGO-based activities from QMUL, offers opportunities to 'experiment' with a range of particle interactions and to learn about the laws governing a range of particle behaviours and decays.

Although there is a lesson plan included with the activity it is not central to the experience of actually 'building' particles and getting some kind of idea as to what might be happening in the world of the unseeable!

Teachers could either introduce the particles and their interactions using the LEGO bricks to assist, or the teaching could happen prior to the LEGO activity - with pupils using the LEGO as revision resources or to explain a range of interactions to the rest of the class.

Do note, though, that no LEGO is actually included in the activity pack itself (!) - you'll have to raid your attic or beg/steal/borrow from your children or your friends' children. And don't expect much luck at car boot sales - LEGO is traded and collected quite seriously and deals are often made between traders long before the public get anywhere near the stalls (as I have learned from recent experience).

If you are struggling to get the bits you need (as I was) then LEGO offer a Pick-a-Brick service where you can specify individual pieces and build up a bespoke order that they will ship to you. Prices start from about 6p/brick.

(For the 'colour' property I decided to use 2x1 plates since I could get them in the six colours I needed.)

I have grander plans for this activity but a little more 'experimentation' is still needed.

All in all a great idea, the success of which will largely depend (as with most resources) on how it is presented to the pupils.

Happy building!