The “Challenge Cup” Special Prize – “Grid Project”: Basic Science Can be Really Cool

In April 2017, the “Grid Project” started by students from Tsinghua University’s Department of Engineering Physics, Department of Physics and School of Aerospace Engineering took home the special prize of Tsinghua’s 35th “Challenge Cup Award”. It is more than just a competition work, but a project for students to overcome challenges through applying teamwork, analytical thinking and their understanding of basic scientific knowledge.

Wen Jiaxing, who is from Department of Engineering Physics, is the team leader of the “Grid Project”. He said that the goal is to detect the electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational waves at gamma ray, namely short gamma ray bursts. The plan is to launch the first functional verification satellite in 2018. Satellites will be launched gradually over the next five years, eventually forming a probe network of 10 to 24 micro-nano satellites.

Due to being blocked by earth, traditional gamma probe could not achieve a round-the-clock coverage of gamma ray detection. The “Grid Project” team proposed using cubic star platform with advanced scintillation detector to achieve a micro-nano satellite network system, which allows such holistic coverage and detection. Such findings have important scientific significance.

“In addition, the project’s main aim is to cultivate students,” said Wen. The “Grid Project” is a complete student project. At present, Wen is the oldest in the team yet at the start of the team’s founding last October, he was still a senior student. Comprised of more than 30 undergraduate students from Tsinghua and other universities, they are united due to sharing a common interest. The senior students are mainly responsible for specific technical research while the junior students are responsible for the exploration of scientific theories. Coming from different departments and with varying specialities, students are divided into three groups: science, payloads and satellites. Wen Jiaxing hopes that the project will allow undergraduates to realize how important basic scientific research is and encourage them to give it a try.

Over the past year, team achievements were obtained one step at a time. The team also met with many difficulties from finding ways in solving the problem of the stability of detectors in outer space to realizing efficient detection of low-energy gamma ray. "Fortunately we have many teachers who are offering us help,” said Wen.

Just like what instructor Feng Hua said, the “Grid Project” is an integration of science and engineering projects. It allows students to not only refine their basic scientific research skills but also ease the transition from theory work in the classroom to practice at the frontline. It helps to lay a good foundation for students to participate in future national scientific projects. They will find that even basic science can be really “cool”.



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