The schools challenge

CERN scientists have a few months to find out what’s inside two mysterious boxes without opening them!

As the Be a Scientist project reaches its 10th anniversary, the tables are turned as primary school pupils set a challenge for CERN… and the clock is ticking!

Launched in 2011, the Be a Scientist educational programme is the result of a collaboration between institutions on both sides of the Franco-Swiss border: the University of Geneva (Physiscope and the Laboratory of Didactics and Science Epistemology), the Department of Public Education (Geneva) and the Ministry of Education (France).

Every year, about 800 pupils aged 8 to 12 from Geneva, Ain and Haute-Savoie follow in scientists’ footsteps by studying the scientific research process. Like researchers who are looking for invisible particles, the pupils make hypotheses, collect data and use evidence as they set out to identify the contents of boxes provided by CERN. One small catch – they are not allowed to open the boxes or damage them in any way.

This anniversary seemed a good time to switch roles and throw the challenge back to CERN. Pupils from Jean de la Fontaine (Prévessin-Moëns, France) and Cérésole (Petit-Lancy, Switzerland) schools, who participated in the Be a Scientist project in 2020/2021, have invited the CERN community to take up the mysterious boxes challenge. In the utmost secrecy, the pupils have hidden various objects in two boxes, which they hope will give scientists a hard time and keep them busy for the next months!

We challenge you! […] It’s your turn! Write things down so you don’t forget them. We advise you to work as a team, because it’s harder on your own!

(pupil from Cérésole school, Petit-Lancy, Switzerland)

Read more about the progress of the investigations conducted by the CERN community below and visit this site for regular updates on the challenge.

The Schools Challenge: time to open the boxes!

On Friday, 13 May, local primary schoolchildren attended an event in the Globe of Science and Innovation to reveal the contents of boxes they had carefully prepared as a challenge for CERN’s scientists.

CERN scientists Archana Sharma and Pieter Mattelaer round off the investigations in response to the primary schools’ challenge

At a considerable advantage thanks to the previous teams’ findings, will Archana and Pieter finally work out what’s in the boxes?

Another pair of CERN scientists tries to identify the contents of two mystery boxes designed by local schoolchildren

Will physicist Dorota Grabowska and engineer Alberto Di Meglio be able to use a combination of theory and fact to work out what’s inside the two boxes without opening them?

Two CERN physicists take up the mystery boxes challenge set by local primary schools

Will CERN physicists Mar Capeans and Tapan Nayak use their knowledge of the fundamental properties of matter wisely to detect what’s inside the boxes?

Another team of two CERN scientists try to unlock the secret of the boxes provided by the primary schools

Will Katy Foraz and Andre Henriques, engineers at CERN, be ingenious enough to study the boxes from all angles and figure out what’s inside?

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?

Primary schools challenge CERN

CERN scientists have a few months to find out what’s inside two mysterious boxes without opening them!