SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION: Students showcase their education outreach efforts through a creative new contest

Spotlight on inspiring the next generation of scientists and business leaders.

The creativity and artistic expression of young scientists were challenged recently in a contest held by the OSA Foundation (OSAF). The Photo and Video Contest selected the best photos and videos relating to educational outreach programs conducted by OSA Student Chapters, with funding or materials provided by the OSAF in 2010. Donor’s Choice winners received $1,000 USD towards an education outreach grant and Flip video camera; People’s Choice winners received $500 USD towards an education outreach grant and Flip video camera; and runners-up received a Flip video camera.

“We know that our grant recipients are using foundation support to develop exciting and innovative educational outreach programming,” said Meredith Smith, OSAF director. “The contest enabled us to encourage creative thinking, and at the same time, to identify and reward the great work that is being done by OSA Student Chapters around the world.”

Launched in October 2010, the contest had separate categories for photo and video submissions. One video and two photo submissions per program were allowed. Each program was eligible to win only one award.

Submissions were judged in two ways. The Donor’s Choice awards were voted on only by OSAF donors, while the People’s Choice awards were selected by the number of votes received through the OSAF’s Facebook page and YouTube channels:  the number of “likes” determined the photo contest winners; the video contest winners were determined by the number of YouTube views.

The winners in the Photo Contest were:

Donor's Choice First Prize
Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada
Equipped with large mirrors, metallic tubes and large Fresnel lenses, participants controlled the light to move a solar car.

Donor's Choice Runner-Up (tie)
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Showcases the effect of a diffraction grating on a white light source.

University of Texas at Austin, USA
Features a student working with a handheld polarizer.

People's Choice First Prize
University of Naples "Federico II," Italy
A fishing line is used to explain how fiber optics work.

People's Choice Runner-Up
CREOL, University of Central Florida, USA

Snell's Law is demonstrated during the High School Visitation day to CREOL at UCF.

The Video Contest winners were:

Donor's Choice First Prize
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
During the "Colorful Optics Road Trip" program held July 3-15, 2010, in South Africa and Namibia, the Chapter visited various schools serving students from highly diverse backgrounds. The show presented at these schools was educational in nature and aimed to convey fundamental optics in an entertaining and interactive way.

Donor's Choice Runner-Up
Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India
Students were asked to make posters on "Light and its uses in daily life" before participating in the C.V. Raman Science Fair. During the Fair, Chapter members reviewed each poster and selected the three best.

People's Choice First Prize
University of Texas at Austin, USA
In an experiment conducted during "UT Explore," an annual open house event at the University of Texas at Austin, Student Chapter members microwaved a light bulb submerged in a water bath.  The open house invited children and families to explore UT and view programs hosted by a variety of departments on the main campus. 

Winners plan to use their prizes to further their education outreach programming. “We were very happy to get this award! We will use the $1,000 grant for our next outreach activities,” said Véronique Zambon, Université Laval Student Chapter president. “I also appreciate the opportunity to see what other chapters are doing as outreach activities. Thank you to the OSA Foundation.”

The OSA Foundation (OSAF) was established in 2002 to support philanthropic activities that help further the Optical Society's mission by concentrating its efforts on programs that advance youth science education, provide optics and photonics education to underserved populations, provide career and professional development resources, and support awards and honors that recognize technical and business excellence. The grants funded by the OSA Foundation are made possible by the generous donations of its supporters as well as the dollar-for-dollar match by OSA. The Foundation is exempt from U.S. federal income taxes under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is a public charity.



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GRACE KLONOSKI is the Senior Director, Foundation, Membership & Education Services for the Optical Society of America, 2010 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20036; e-mail:;

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