SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION: Hands-on demonstrations--a great way to capture the attention and imagination of students

Science & Technology Education
Spotlight on inspiring the next generation of scientists & business leaders


Education experts stress the value to tying lesson material to "real-life" applications, as students are eager to understand why the information they are learning is important and how it is relevant to the world around them. This is yet another reason why optics is such a great topic to bring into the classroom. In addition to being an important and interesting part of science teaching, optics applications are so pervasive it is easy to demonstrate the role they play in a student's everyday life.

Optics also provides many opportunities for interactive exercises--one of the best ways students can connect with the material they are learning. A great variety of "hands-on demonstration" resources have been developed to help bring optics education to young students. Some of the best examples were created by university and business professionals who understand the importance of capturing the interest and imagination of children before they write science and math off as boring or too hard to understand.

Stephen D. Jacobs and his colleagues and students at the University of Rochester, N.Y., are outstanding examples of how volunteers can provide a vital link between students and those in the science and engineering communities.

Stephen D. Jacobs received his B.S. in optics (with high distinction) in 1970, and his Ph.D. in optics in 1976, both from the University of Rochester. He has worked at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) his entire career, becoming a senior scientist in 1982. He manages the Department of Optical Technology within the Engineering Division. This department consists of more than 35 scientists, engineers, and technicians doing basic materials research, advanced development, process development, and optics manufacturing. Areas of responsibility in support of the OMEGA and OMEGA EP laser systems include precision optics from the infrared through the ultraviolet, high-power dielectric/sol-gel coatings, laser-induced damage, and liquid-crystal optics.

In 1999, Steve and others from the University of Rochester developed the "Optics Suitcase" program as part of the Rochester Section of the Optical Society of America's education outreach effort. The Suitcase is an innovative, interactive presentation package designed to introduce middle-school students to a variety of science concepts. Its contents provide students with packets of materials that can be taken home to show to friends and family members as a reinforcement of the classroom lessons. The objective is to provide engineering professionals with demonstration and teaching guide tools that they can bring into classrooms as they educate students about optical technology and the many job opportunities it has to offer.

The materials provide classroom volunteers with a 40-minute presentation that covers topics such as polarization, diffraction, selective reflection, and colors in white light. Also provided is a 12-page User's Guide that gives step-by-step assistance to volunteers in organizing their in-class presentation.

Ninety-eight Optics Suitcases have been distributed to schools and organizations around the world. SPIE and OSA enthusiastically support this program and have highlighted it in their member news publications and on their Web sites. In support of its work with the Retired Scientists, Engineers, and Technicians (ReSET), the OSA Foundation provides suitcases to classroom volunteers in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

To learn more about the Optics Suitcase, view the Suitcase Teaching Guide, and read articles about outreach programs that have successfully used these materials, visit .

Grace Klonoski is the senior director of OSA Foundation and Member & Education Services for the Optical Society of America, 2010 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036; e-mail;


A long way from the ruby laser

Most Popular Articles


Multichannel Spectroscopy: Technology and Applications

This webcast, sponsored by Hamamatsu, highlights some of the photonic technology used in spectroscopy, and the resulting applications.

Handheld Spectrometers

Spectroscopy is a powerful and versatile tool that traditionally often required a large and bulky instrument. The combination of compact optics and modern pa...

Fracking, climate change, and lasers:  new tools to reduce fugitive methane emissions

This webcast, sponsored by Hamamatsu Corporation, covers recent developments and field deployments of compact quantum-cascade-laser (QCL)-based methane senso...

Opportunities in the Mid-IR

The technology for exploiting the mid-IR is developing rapidly:  it includes quantum-cascade lasers and other sources, spectroscopic instruments of many...
White Papers

Narrow-line fiber-coupled modules for DPAL pumping

A new series of fiber coupled diode laser modules optimized for DPAL pumping is presented, featur...

Accurate LED Source Modeling Using TracePro

Modern optical modeling programs allow product design engineers to create, analyze, and optimize ...

Optical Isolators Improve Engraving Performance of Pulsed Fiber Lasers

The deleterious effects of back reflections on pulsed fiber lasers used in marking and engraving ...
Technical Digests

ADHESIVES, SEALANTS, AND COATINGS: Solutions for optical technologies

A vast array of optical systems of various types and degrees of complexity require the use of adh...

WAVELENGTH-SWEPT LASERS: Dispersion-tuned fiber laser sweeps over a 140 nm range for OCT

By eliminating the use of mechanical tunable filters and instead tuning by intensity-modulation i...

Keeping pace with developments in photonic materials research

For demanding or custom spectroscopy solutions, care must be taken in selecting and integrating a...

HIGH-POWER FIBER LASERS: Working in the kilowatt regime

High-power materials-processing fiber lasers are available in an increasing variety of forms, as ...

Click here to have your products listed in the Laser Focus World Buyers Guide.
Social Activity
Copyright © 2007-2014. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS