11 February 2011

‘Have photonics knowledge, will share’

Knowledge is power. In the case of science, knowledge shared can also result in funding and other support for the R&D that will solve many of the world’s energy, healthcare, communications, and other problems. But ... how to go about sharing?
One of the mid-week television highlights over the last month has been the NOVA series on “Making Stuff,” with its four episodes on clean technology, smart materials, nanotechnology, and high-strength materials. “Stuff” refers to materials but the overlaps with light-based technologies -- optics and photonics -- are pervasive, and the show’s host, New York Times tech columnist David Pogue, is an effective ambassador for science. (Follow the link below to see the series on PBS.)
(From the series web page: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/making-stuff.html)
David is not the only science ambassador out there. I sat in on a meeting during SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco last month at which a group of 20 people went around the room telling what they have done in the past year to advance the understanding of science in their communities.

It turns out that 20 people generate around 60 different activities: funding summer interns in an R&D lab, giving a demonstration for a child’s second-grade class, lobbying state and national lawmakers, presenting an optics lesson to 2,400 Boy Scouts as part of a science badge, judging a community science fair -- it’s a long list.
It’s an inspiring list that provoked additional ideas about how to share photonics science with even more students and nonscientists. Several people in that room in San Francisco wanted to hear more about what others are doing, in order put those ideas to use themselves. We’re working on ways to share those stories.
If you are also looking for ideas, browse the list of brief reports on what winners of SPIE Education Outreach grants are doing -- buying optics kits and other supplies for classroom teachers, putting on a Laser Camp, presenting workshops on building solar-powered vehicles, getting involved in local science fairs, and much more.
What opportunities do you have to add to the understanding of science in your neighborhood or communitiy?

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