Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory 2013


Teacher in the Field is Cancelled
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Obed Fulcar will not be able to travel to South Pole Station with the IceCube project. The IceCube team will still be deploying and working at the station. You can learn more about the IceCube project at the IceCube project website.

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What Are They Doing?

Tunnel under the Ice Cube Neutrino ObservatoryTunnel under the Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory How do you find something that isn't directly visible? That's the challenge faced by the team who developed the IceCube neutrino detector under the ice at the South Pole. Just as X-rays allow us to see bone fractures, and MRIs help doctors find damage to soft tissue, neutrinos will reveal new information about the Universe that can't be seen directly. The in-ice particle detector at the South Pole records the interactions of neutrinos which are nearly massless sub-atomic messenger particles. Neutrinos are incredibly common (about 100 trillion pass through your body as you read this) subatomic particles that have no electric charge and almost no mass. They are created by radioactive decay and nuclear reactions, such as those in the Sun and other stars. Neutrinos rarely react with other particles; in fact, most of them pass through objects (like the earth) without any interaction. This makes them ideal for carrying information from distant parts of the universe, but it also makes them very hard to detect.

All neutrino detectors rely on observing the extremely rare instances when a neutrino does interact with a proton or neutron. This transforms the neutrino into a charged particle of the same type as the neutrino flavor (electron, muon, or tau). Muons are charged particles that can travel for 5-10 miles (8-16 kilometres) through matter depending on their energy, and generate detectable light in translucent media.

IceCube is made up of thousands of sensitive light detectors embedded in a cubic kilometre of ice between 1450 m and 2450 m below surface. The sensors are deployed on strings in the ice holes that were made using a hot water drill. IceCube detects about 300,000 neutrinos a year, and has a projected life time of two decades. The data collected will be used to make a "neutrino map" of the universe and to learn more about astronomical phenomena, like gamma ray bursts, black holes, exploding stars, and other aspects of nuclear and particle physics. However, the true potential of IceCube is discovery; the opening of each new astronomical window leads to unexpected discoveries.

Where Are They?

The South Pole, AntarcticaThe South Pole, Antarctica The team worked at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica – the southernmost continually inhabited place on the planet. The IceCube site is about one kilometre from the South Pole station, which supplies the necessary logistics of food, power, and shelter. Despite the cold outside, life inside the station is relatively luxurious with comfortable beds, cooked meals, and showers twice a week. The South Pole is reached by plane from McMurdo Station on the coast of Antarctica from October through February, after which time temperatures become too low for planes to operate safely. Approximately 50 people stay there the rest of the year, which is known as wintering over. IceCube has two to three people dedicated to overseeing the operation of the telescope during this period at the South Pole.


Driving to Madison, Wisconsin After packing and having checked out of my dorm room, I said goodbye to the teachers and students, who were engaged in building solar-powered sculptures for their parents and families to see at the end of program showcase. That afternoon we drove about 4 hours to Madison, Wisconsin to visit the Ice Cube Project headquarters. I was a scorching ride, not only fro the 90 degrees plus heat wave, but because the AC on Dr.Madsen quit on us about 20 minutes into the trip. We took turns behind the wheel, and I drove the first part of the road trip, while Jim was working...
Last May during his visit to my school, Dr. Madsen invited me to come to River Falls, Wisconsin, to visit the Upward Bound summer program that Ice Cube hosted at the University of Wisconsin. On Sunday, July 18, 2013 I flew in the early morning from JFK to the Minneapolis, Minnesota, taking a one week break from my summer semester of graduate studies, finishing my Master of Ed at Cambridge College, in Boston. I was picked up by Dr.Madsen, and after a breakfast of bagles , cream cheese and coffe I checked into the brand new Ames dorms building, where I settled down into my room. Dinner was at...
On Wednesday, May 29, 2013 we had the presence of Dr. Jim Madsen visiting Bilingual Class 621 at MS319 Maria Teresa Mirabal Middle School, as part of our “Adopt a Researcher” initiative. My students were chockfull of questions about the Ice Cube Neutrino Project and about the South Pole, Antarctica. Ever since January’s South Pole webcast we have talked about Neutrinos in class, and students went online and researched more in depth and created power point presentations, working in teams of two or independently. Artwork was created by the students, showcasing Neutrinos as subatomic particles...
Thermometer in parking lot showing outside temperature
One of the most exciting parts of our PolarTREC orientation week were the field trips out in the cold. It gave us opportunities to suit up for arctic fieldwork, the chance to experience multi sensory learning of the Alaska permafrost underground layer, and investigate the survival behavior of hibernating wildlife. Lectures by several young scientists, both male and females proved to be an inspiration and a role model for scientific careers for us to share with our students back home. *Museum of the North and University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), hibernation chamber, where we saw Alaskan...
6th Grade Bilingual Classroom
The first collaboration I had with my researcher, Dr. Jim Madsen was signing up my class 621 made up of bilingual 6th grade students, mostly from Dominican Republic, Mexicp and Ecuador, to participate in the Wisconsin Ice Cube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) South Pole webcast, on Wednesday, December 19, 2012, at 2pm Eastern Daylight Saving time. I must confess I was a little nervous at first, but everything turned out just fine. After receiving confirmation from Megan Madsen, WIPAC's Education Outreach Coordinator, I secured the classroom period, one week ahead with my co-teacher Ms....

Project Information

5 January 2014 to 7 January 2014
Location: South Pole Station
Project Funded Title: IceCube Neutrino Observatory

Meet the Team

Obed Fulcar's picture
Maria Teresa Mirabal Middle School
New York City, NY
United States

Obed Fulcar is a bilingual, special education teacher in Washington Heights, New York City, with 13 years of experience in the NYC public education system. As an educator at the Maria Teresa Mirabal Middle School since 2006, he employs Environmental Science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education as a way to teach across all subjects to students with learning disabilities and bilingual students primarily from the Dominican Republic. He also created a STEM boat-building after school program and runs the NASA/Robotics club for the Children's Aid Society, at the Mirabal Sisters Campus.

Outside of the academic world he is very passionate about Friends of Sherman Creek, an all volunteer, community-based, parks advocacy group for public access to the waterfront, that he founded in 2005, in collaboration with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, that provides service learning and community service opportunities to teens in Washington Heights and Inwood, in NYC, in order to promote careers in science and conservation. The mission of the group is to create environmental education after school programs involving Citizen Science, aquatics studies and water quality monitoring as well as the preservation, restoration, and conservation of the salt marsh wetlands of Sherman Creek, on the Harlem River.

Mr. Fulcar has been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2005 Citizen Conservation Award from Columbia University CERC and the 2007 Environmental Educator of the Year Ezersky Award, from the NYC Council of the Environment. He is a past NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumni (2010) and a 2012 NASA Space Camp Fellow. He is married with two teenage children.

Jim Madsen's picture
University of Wisconsin River Falls
River Falls, WI
United States

Dr. Madsen is the chair of the Physics Department at UW-River Falls and Associate Director of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory where he directs the education and outreach program. His research interests include heliophysics and astrophysics, which he has studied at his various projects in Antarctica. In addition to research, Dr. Madsen is committed to reaching a broad audience beyond the research community. He is involved in education and outreach for the IceCube project including professional development courses for teachers and science and math instruction for the UWRF Upward Bound Program. He collaborates with a number of programs and institutions in addition to PolarTREC, including the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, UW-River Falls Upward Bound and McNair Programs, and service groups (Rotary International, Boy and Girl Scouts, university alumni associations, etc.). You can read more about Dr. Madsen's work here and here.

"Working in Antarctica is a wonderful adventure, and it is great to provide opportunities for others to have this awesome experience."

Francis Halzen's picture
University of Wisconsin Madison
Madison, WI
United States

Francis Halzen is a theoretician studying problems at the interface of particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. Since 1987, he has been working on the AMANDA experiment, a first-generation neutrino telescope at the South Pole. AMANDA observations represent a proof of concept for the recently completed kilometre-scale observatory IceCube.

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