Measurements for physics experiments create a lot of data. So much so, that the scientists themselves could not possibly analyze all of it, even if they wanted to. Because of this, there is are a lot of data that are never used, even though they could still contain valuable information. On the other end of the spectrum is the amateur scientist. They are not affiliated with a research institute, and because of this, could never hope to get time with any expensive machinery. They would love to spend some of their free time on research, but simply don’t have the means to obtain the necessary data. The goal of our project is to bring these two groups together, to create a situation where both parties can benefit. Because not only is it fun for amateur scientists to work with real data generated with high-end equipment, if they find something noteworthy, it could be a real help for the people working with the machinery. In order to do this, our website provides two things: 1. A place where data can be found and downloaded by whomever might be interested 2. A place where everyone can discuss their findings in a forum-like structure This way, the two groups can not only exchange data, but also communicate directly.
The customer was a physics professor who had encountered the problem we described above: he found himself with more data than he knew what to do with. For him, this was an experiment, with the hypothesis: “There are people who would be interested in these data”. Overall, the customer was very involved with the project. Even when progress was slow, he insisted on having weekly meetings because he greatly enjoyed hearing about what we’d achieved that week. These meetings were, though sometimes chaotic, always worth attending. We also had a lot of channels to communicate, from a WhatsApp group to a shared Google Drive folder. This made exchanging information and data very smooth. During the project, we were also in contact with a PhD student who ran the experiment we would upload the data from. More often than not, he was present during these weekly meetings as well, and was able to provide us with the details about the experiment itself, as well as general feedback.
Before this course, most of us didn't know each other. Because of this, the team definitely went through the few stages of awkwardness every new team goes through. Luckily, some people were able to take the lead, and push the team through. Very early on, we decided that we would split our team into three groups of two, all focusing on a different aspect of the project. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight might have hindered us. Because when it came to the interfaces, i.e. putting the work together, some issues arose. There was also an issue of availability. Because we were a relatively large group, there were very few meetings were everyone could make it. Even though it was almost always for a very legitimate reason, this did hinder the communication somewhat. Overall though, the experience of working together was mostly positive. The atmosphere in the group was always great and we greatly enjoyed the project as a whole.