The Student Optics Chapter, or SOCk, at the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona put on its fifth annual Laser Fun Day this year in conjunction with the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). This is our largest outreach event every year, and we had a record attendance this time, between 1200 and 1400 people. We invited the entire Tucson community by sending out hundreds of flyers to the schools and other educational organizations.
Thanks to a wonderful IYL 2015 grant from SPIE, we were able to make this the most amazing Laser Fun Day on record, fitting for our fifth year of the event. We always involve the undergraduate classes by giving them themes to develop new demonstrations. This year, we gave everyone the IYL 2015 themes of energy, education, agriculture, communications and health. The sophomore class made a very popular demonstration on the many impacts of optics on health. The juniors discussed the impact of optics on creating energy with solar power, and saving energy with more efficient lighting.
The senior class talked about the impact of optics in Communications, and showed one of the communications labs in the College of Optical Sciences to visitors. Agriculture was handled by the graduate students to discuss the impact of remote sensing on farming, as well as hyperspectral imaging. Our goal, as always, was to give out this complex information in a method that everyone in the public could understand.
The overwhelmingly popular Laser Maze was redesigned to make it even more enjoyable. Exhibits included a 6-foot-long kaleidoscope, laser radios, solar telescopes and an infrared camera, all of which illustrate different applications and properties of light. Kids had the chance to take part in a mystery hunt and receive a pair of diffraction glasses at the end of their time at the event, guided by our IYL 2015 Passport.
We had a wonderful team of around 100 volunteers over the course of the day that enabled the event to be a success. Again thanks to the IYL 2015 grant, we were able to get Laser Fun Day volunteer shirts, which had the event details on the front, the IYL 2015 logo on the sleeve, and the themes of the IYL 2015 on the back. These volunteers came both from the college itself, as well as the various industry partners with the college, such as from Raytheon and Edmund Optics.
We always hand out surveys to visitors to assess what they learned and what they thought of the event. Some of our notable results are below:
- 83% of visitors had never come to the event before.
- 53% of visitors were exposed to what optics really is for the first time at this event.
- The favorite demonstration was the Laser Maze, followed by the health themed demonstrations.
We received much positive feedback from the event as well, some of which is listed below.
- “Bravo! Thank you. My kids were inspired.”
- “Everyone was great. Thanks for hosting this.”
- “This was super fun for parents as well! thank you”
When we asked visitors what they learned that was new about optics, they said:
- “That there’s a whole lot more to optics than ophthalmology”
- “I didn’t know all the health applications”
- “Hyperspectral imaging can be used to track crop health from space”
While the event is always a lot of work for SOCk to put on every year, it is always so rewarding to see the final product, and to get such great feedback from visitors. Because of the International Year of Light and the funding from SPIE and OSA, we were able to make this the most amazing and well attended Laser Fun Day ever.
Benjamin Cromey is a senior in the Optical Sciences and Engineering undergraduate program at the College of Optical Sciences, as well as the Vice President of the Student Optics Chapter (SOCk). He has been involved with SOCk since his Sophomore year, and optics outreach remains one of his passions. His research has focused on 3D holographic displays, and he will be starting the Ph.D. program at the college in the Fall of this year.
SOCk, the University of Arizona Student Optics Chapter, promotes the disciplines of math and science, especially optical sciences and optical engineering, among our communities. Established in 2004, it is affiliated with OSA and SPIE, two of the most respected professional societies in the field of optics. SOCk can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.