Fermilab regularly makes fundamental science discoveries and is a world leader in quantum physics. In 2019, it launched the Fermilab Quantum Institute, which conducts world-class research at the leading edge of quantum computing and information science, laying the groundwork for critical physics calculations to be performed on quantum computers. As such, Fermilab is an ideal place to bring together particle physics and quantum computing as two complementary fields.
During the summer of 2018, three of us in the Fermilab Theoretical Physics Department applied to mentor two high school teachers, Anastasia Perry and Ranbel Sun. With STEM education in mind, we thought this was an ideal opportunity to share the exciting and disruptive technology of quantum computing.
After surveying the available resources on quantum computing, we discovered that while popular science articles and advanced textbooks existed in abundance, the material for high school students was decidedly lacking.
We decided to fill the gap: During the summer, Anastasia and Ranbel met with us several times a week to discuss the foundations of quantum mechanics, quantum computing and how to best present this information to a high school level audience. They read a vast amount of quantum computing material, distilled it to the simplest parts and created the module at an appropriate comprehension level. Together, we decided students should learn about quantum concepts including superposition, qubits, encryption, quantum measurement, entanglement, teleportation and their real-world applications.
Once the summer was over, all of us continued to work on the material, creating attractive figures, improving readability and adding information on recent quantum computing developments (research really does change that quickly!). Finally, the information was collected into a single book. Working together with such a motivated and intelligent group ensured the whole process was exciting and fun.
Our group developed a course, “Quantum Computing as a High School Module,” which is available on the open-access archive arXiv. The course is the first on quantum computing designed for U.S. high school students, but it is also useful for a quantum-computing-curious public. The teachers ensured that the material is at the appropriate level, and we ensured that the science is sound.
Read more at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
Photo: Students in a trial classroom undertake the IBMQ exercises in May 2019. Photo by Ranbel Sun.