Teenagers from four schools used the popular block-building game to construct a replica of the entire laboratory of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The centrepiece is a working model of the LHC, which physicists are using to answer some of the biggest questions in science. In 2012, scientists on the ATLAS and CMS projects at CERN changed our understanding of the universe when they discovered the Higgs Boson by smashing protons into each other at close to the speed of light inside the LHC.
Dr Mark Pickering, a physicist on the ATLAS project who worked with the schoolchildren, said he hoped the interactive games included in their Minecraft creation would help people across the world learn more about CERN.
“The students did an incredible job in creating fun, interactive games and simulations that explain how we collect data from the LHC’s high energy collisions using the ATLAS detector,” he said. “In addition to the museums in Geneva, we now have a virtual museum accessible to anyone all over the world.”
Pupils aged 13 to 15 from Fitzharrys School, Didcot Girls’ School and Abingdon School, in Oxfordshire; and Portsmouth Grammar School, in Hampshire, used Minecraft to replicate the buildings at CERN, the LHC ATLAS experiment and its beamline tunnels. The world – called ATLAScraft – is now available to download, so everyone can use the detailed descriptions, mini-games and particle collision simulators to learn more about the laboratory.
Billy Burnham, a Year 11 pupil at Fitzharrys School who was involved in building the Minecraft world, said: “At the beginning of the project I had no knowledge of how the LHC worked; I just passed it off as too hard for me. I am extremely glad to have learnt how it works now.”
Maja Glogowska, a Year 10 student from Didcot Girls’ School who was also part of the project, added: “I have learnt about the Standard Model, which has sparked a wider interest in physics, and about the LHC overall.”
The project was led by Professor Cigdem Issever, from the University of Oxford, with support from Dr Pickering and Dr Steve Worm, from the University of Birmingham. It was funded by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council and the ATLAS Outreach Group.
Minecraft is one of the most popular computer games of all time, with 122 million copies sold to date – including four to people in Antarctica. Since the beginning of 2016, more than 53,000 copies have been sold every day, and 55 million people play Minecraft every month.
The Education Edition for schools was released in November 2016 and more than two million licencees from over 115 countries have signed up to the program in that time. Schools can currently receive a one-year subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition for free by purchasing selected Windows 10 devices. Click here for more information.