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International Day of Light in Action: University of Auckland and Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León

Each year, SPIE provides International Day of Light (IDL) Micro Grants to SPIE Members who want to celebrate the importance of light and share that knowledge with their community.

These activities must take place during the month of May and tie directly to the cross-global festivities held on the 16th of that month. As we get closer to the 2019 International Day of Light, we will be re-visiting our 2018 IDL Micro Grant winners from around the world, and showcasing the innovative ways they celebrated this annual event in their communities.

This week we visit Auckland, New Zealand, and San Nicolás de los Garza, Mexico, to meet the bright minds who celebrated IDL 2018 with the help of an SPIE Micro Grant.

The University of Auckland SPIE Student Chapter

RAINBOW EFFECT: Observing life through SPIE IDL diffraction glasses 

Laser experiments, diffraction glasses, and famous scientists -- oh my! The University of Auckland SPIE Student Chapter and The Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies used their grant to host the International Day of Light Historic Science Fair on 13 May. Primary-school students and their families were invited to participate in the event, which was staffed with 27 volunteers from the two institutions. Various science demos and activities lined the halls, including a booth where attendees could measure the radioactivity of different items, a station to test the strength of magnets, and an IDL diffraction-glasses station.

Of course, the science fair wouldn't be considered historic without an appearance from some of history's most famous scientists! Three of the Auckland student volunteers dressed up as Rosalind Franklin, Maria Skłodowska-Curie, and Michael Faraday, bringing to vivid life the impact of science, past and present.

HISTORIC TRIUMVIRATE: Auckland students Nadine as Rosalind Franklin, Nina as Marie Curie, and Ben as Michael Faraday, mug for the camera

As the event was held on New Zealand's Mother's Day, a presentation was also included on famous women in science, followed by an all-female panel discussion moderated by CEO of Orbis Diagnostics Cather Simpson, a runner-up in the 2018 SPIE Startup Challenge. The women discussed a variety of topics, including who inspired them to start a career in science, and their experience as women in the field.

RAISE THE ROOF: Cather Simpson moderates a panel discussion on women in science

CURIE-OUS: Nina, dressed as Marie Curie, and Liam explain the radioactivity demo

Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León

The hardworking and passionate group of students at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL) in Mexico held a series of events to get their community ready for IDL. With help from multiple student groups at the university, the Ministry of Education in Nuevo León, and the National Network of Science Outreach Professionals, this group pulled off four events in just two days. 

They kicked off their IDL celebration with an optics outreach workshop led Dr. Miguel Torres-Cisneros of Universidad de Guanajuato. He spent an afternoon teaching 50 undergraduate students about diffraction and scattering through different optics experiments. Later that day, Dr. Torres-Cisneros was the distinguished guest at the second IDL event: Coffee with a Scientist. Students were invited to an informal, caffeinated meetup, where they could ask questions ranging from professional development to how to get involved in more outreach activities. 

SLINKY SCIENCE: A student volunteer demonstrates hands-on science using everyday objects


Three days later, the Micro-Grant group organized a Dumpster Optics workshop for 40 elementary and primary school teachers. The workshop taught fun, inexpensive ways to teach optics using household objects. A variety of the lessons, both in English and Spanish, are available online.

Later on that same day at the Colegio Civil Cultural Center in Monterrey, Mexico, Suma Ciencia began. This was a public event to celebrate IDL, with a full day of hands-on science activities ranging from light painting, polarization art, a pinhole viewer workshop, solar observations using a mobile planetarium, astronomy demos, and more. Perla Marlene Viera-González and Guillermo E. Sánchez-Guerrero, UANL students and Micro-Grant applicants, presented the team's entire IDL grant activities at SPIE Optics + Photonics last August

ENERGIZE!: The light painting activity at Suma Ciencia was extremely popular

THROUGH A GLASS, NICELY: A young attendee looks through a microscope at one of the Suma Ciencia booths

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