The Escaramujo Project: instrumentation courses during a road trip across the Americas
The Escaramujo Project was a series of eight hands-on laboratory courses on High Energy Physics and Astroparticle Instrumentation, in Latinamerican Institutions. The Physicist Federico Izraelevitch traveled on a van with his wife and dogs from Chicago to Buenos Aires teaching the courses. The sessions took place at Institutions in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia at an advanced undergraduate and graduate level. During these workshops, each group built a modern cosmic ray detector based on plastic scintillator and silicon photomultipliers, designed specifically for this project. After the courses, a functional detector remained at each institution to be used by the faculty to facilitate the training of future students and to support and enable local research activities. The five-days workshops covered topics such as elementary particle and cosmic ray Physics, radiation detection and instrumentation, low-level light sensing with solid state devices, front-end analog electronics and object-oriented data analysis (C++ and ROOT). Throughout this initiative, about a hundred of talented and highly motivated young students were reached. With the detector as a common thread, they were able to understand the designing principles and the underlying Physics involved in it, build the device, start it up, characterize it, take data and analyze it, mimicking the stages of a real elementary particle Physics experiment. Besides the aims to awaken vocations in science, technology and engineering, The Escaramujo Project was an effort to strengthen the integration of Latinamerican academic institutions into the international scientific community.