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CERN Summer Webfest

CERN Summer Student Webfest

Photo by Daniel Lombraña

The first weekend of August of 2012, CERN hosted the first Summer Student Webfest where physicists, designers, computer scientists and engineers worked together in a 48 hours marathon to create a set of amazing web applications prototypes involving physics and modern web technologies. CERN Restaurant 1

CERN Restaurant 1

The first day, different projects were presented so the students could decide in which one they wanted to participate. Some of the ideas were proposed by the organizers, but also some of the students came with really good suggestions. At the end the projects that were chosen to work over the 48 hours period were:

CERN Restaurant 1

Hacking on science!

One of the most repeated “memes” during this first day was that everyone wanted to  make as easy as possible the explanations about physics for the general public. As a consequence of this overlapping,  a huge team was created regarding the idea of explaining physics via a new Standard Model as one month ago the Higgs Boson discovery was announced at CERN.

The next 48 hours were amazing! The students arrived the Saturday morning around 10:00 am and they worked almost 48 hours non-stop in order to win the prize: a trip to the Mozilla Festival in London in November, courtesy of the Mozilla Foundation.

The event was free-form based, so some of the projects evolved during the event, and for example the mega-team around making more accessible physics for the public split themselves in two small teams that worked together in the Standard Model and a new awesome idea about creating a new web tool to create Feyman diagrams and use it to explain physics .

It is really difficult to tell you how amazing it was, so I “interviewed” each participant so they have to explain what they have done during the weekend and if they were enjoying the event. The following video (14 minutes long!) shows how people worked together in different teams and their projects. The video was recorded before the prize ceremony, so you can feel the pressure of not having enough time to improve a bit more their project .

The winning project was the ParticleQuest game (you can actually play it at a fork of the Mozilla’s Open Source game BrowserQuest.

The competition was really tough as the projects created really awesome applications, but the best part for me was seeing how these students got really involved in the event.

We asked the participants what they liked about the event and if they were happy. The mega-team basically summarized the event like this:

  • The event should start earlier, so we have more time to work on the project.
  • We have been able to self-organized ourselves without a supervisor!

Amazing!! Indeed all the participants loved the event. Just to give you an example: after the prize ceremony John Ellis gave a special talk about the State of the Higgs Address. A few minutes after the full event was over, the students started to organized themselves again to keep working in their respective projects.

Another interesting outcome from the event was that only a few designers joined, but they were key persons to the success of all the projects, as they actually helped in every project (special mention to Andre-Pierre Olivier for his help in almost every project!).

The source code of the projects is available in Github, so if you want to know what we actually did during those 48 hours, go to Github and enjoy it!

If you want to see more photos from the event check the album I’ve created with pictures from almost all the participants!

The event was co-organized by the Citizen Cyberscience Centre and the Peer 2 Peer University, and sponsored by the Mozilla Fondation and the Shuttleworth Fondation.