Skip to main content

Photonics for fun and games -- and serious business!

A clear and present interest in using optical sciences and photonics to better our world shone through (no pun intended) at the Photonics for a Better World pavilion and other activities at SPIE Optics and Photonics last month in San Diego. Organizations are making dedicated efforts to improve the future of photonics, increase awareness in science education and improve the global community, and even to teach us how to have fun with photonics!

The other Olympics: Optics Outreach!

Nearly 220 people attended the Optics Outreach Olympics on Sunday 5 August. Teams from 16 Student Chapters from 9 different countries competed against each other by presenting their best optics outreach demonstrations that they use to teach children at schools about optics. The goal was to showcase effective, original educational activities that promote science education. In 2011, SPIE Student Members promoted science outreach to over 9,000 young students.

This year, the winning demonstrations included “The Magic of the Human Eye,” from the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo Leon Student Chapter; “Light!” from the National Institute of Technology Tiruchirappalli; and “Laser Propagation Demonstration,” from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.
A green glow captured the attention of judges and visitors at the Optics Outreach Olympics.


Essential Technologies

On the industry side, the heavily anticipated results of the National Academies Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for Our Nation report were available at the Photonics for a Better World pavilion and discussed  with report co-chairs Alan Willner (Univ. of Southern California) and Paul McManamon (Univ. of Dayton and Exciting Technolgies) in the first post-release public briefing Wednesday afternoon during the event.

Key take-aways from the briefing are the need for everyone in the industry to promote science education -- do whatever you can to ensure that kids are interested and stay engaged in math and science and are aware of lucrative career opportunities in the future -- and to spread the word among policy makers, legislators, voters -- everyone -- about the importance and impact of optics and photonics technologies.

Fun with lasers ... and much more

At the Photonics for a Better World pavilion, photonics for betterment of the global community and STEM education (in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) were hot topics … and included a bit of fun with lasers!


● Several tables were set up for playing the Khet Laser Game 2.0, which combines the science of lasers with classic strategic games like chess. The objective is to use lasers and mirrors to illuminate your opponent’s pharaoh while shielding yours from harm!


At left, Michael Larson,  Professor and Vice Chancellor for Research at the
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and CEO of Innovention Toys
(makers of the Khet game), demonstrates the game at the Optics Outreach Olympics
with the help of Dirk Fabian of SPIE Student Services staff.


● With the new release of the National Academies report, STEM education has never been more important for the young minds in our global community. One effort to promote STEM education is LASER Classroom, which brings products, curriculum, and resources for teaching and learning about light, lasers, photonics and optics to kids in grades 9-12.

The program offers products called LASER BLOX, which contains magnets, apertures, range in wavelengths to vary colors, and even stack! Not only does LASER Classroom offer standalone products, they provide learning modules for use in the classroom which contain approximately 6-10 hours of teaching and learning material. LASER Classroom offers several other products that allow children to have fun while learning about optics and photonics.

Photonics Explorer demonstrates the efforts of STEM education and aims to equip science teachers in Europe’s secondary schools with up-to-date educational material that really engages, excites, and educates students about optics and photonics. And the best part: it’s totally free! Their strategy is to provide hands-on experiments with an inquiry- and exploratory-based framework in order to really engage students and provoke problem-solving skills.

The minds behind Photonics Explorer -- a group of teachers, scientists in pedagogy, and experts in photonics including sponsors such as SPIE Europe -- believe that the best place to raise interest and recruit future scientists that will solve our technical problems in the future is at schools.

● Also in the pavilion was another of today’s game-changers in the promotion of optics and photonics within the scientific community: InSPIRE, the Institution for Solar Photovoltaic Innovation, Research, and Edu-training. This non-profit organization’s objective is to promote research, development, workforce training, and commercialization within the solar and renewable energy industry.

InSPIRE seeks to raise money through grant-seeking opportunities from the government and lay the foundation for a solar and renewable energy industry in Illinois that will have potential economic benefits. The organization plans to provide a platform upon which specialists and scientists can share knowledge and experience through networking and events.

They also plan to match job-seekers with potential employers, assist researchers attempting to gain financial support in their projects, and introduce innovators with companies that have the ability to commercialize their products. On every spectra of the solar and renewable energy industry, InSPIRE will surely have a large and lasting impact in the future of optics and photonics.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

#FacesofPhotonics: Inspired

Guest blogger: Emily Power is a Winter Quarter graduate in communications from Western Washington University, and most recently social media intern for SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. She is blogging on responses to the SPIE #FacesofPhotonics campaign, to share the stories of SPIE students around the globe.
It is a commonly known fact: students are the future. Around the world, students with ideas, opinions, and innovative minds are preparing for their opportunities to conceptualize and create the next advances for the ever-changing world in which we live.
In the field of optics and photonics, students are making a difference even now, sharing their work and building their networks through conferences such as SPIE Photonics West, coming up next month in San Francisco.
The SPIE campaign #FacesofPhotonics was developed as a showcase across social media to connect students from SPIE Student Chapters around the world, highlighting similarities, celebrating differ…

Grilling robot takes over backyard barbecue

Photonics has already made profound contributions to such areas as medicine, energy, and communications to make our everyday lives more efficient. (Hence the name of this blog.) People in all walks of life benefit from the incorporation of photonics technologies. We look forward to future advancements when the technology may help find a cure for cancer, monitor and prevent climate change, and pave the way to other advancements we can’t even visualize yet.
But here’s a photonics-based invention -- already demonstrated – that breaks ground in a new area: the backyard barbecue. Talk about hot fun in the summertime!
The BratWurst Bot made its appearance at the Stallwächter-Party of the Baden-Württemberg State Representation in Berlin. It’s made of off-the-shelf robotic components such as the lightweight Universal Robots arm UR-10, a standard parallel gripper (Schunk PG-70) and standard grill tongs. A tablet-based chef’s face interacted with party guests.
Two RGB cameras and a segmentatio…

UPDATE! Gravitational waves ... detected!

Update, 11 February: A hundred years after Einstein predicted them, gravitational waves from a cataclysmic event a billion years ago have been observed.
For the first time, scientists have observed gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window to the cosmos.
The discovery was announced on 11 February at a press conference in Washington, DC, hosted by the National Science Foundation, the primary funder of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO).
The gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.
The event took place on 14 September 2015 at 5:51 a.m. EDT (09:51 UTC) by both of…