Photonics Explorer kits boost next-generation interest in science, says survey

Oct. 24, 2012
Preliminary results of a recent survey show that the Photonics Explorer kit is helping to increase interest and competence in science, with the goal of reaching more than 2.5 million students across the European Union (EU) by equipping secondary schools with learning modules on photonics and related topics.

Bellingham, WA--Preliminary results of a recent survey show that the Photonics Explorer kit is helping to increase interest and competence in science, with the goal of reaching more than 2.5 million students across the European Union (EU) by equipping secondary schools with learning modules on photonics and related topics. Developed at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Brussels, Belgium) as part of a European Commission (EC) education project, the program is also supported by SPIE and other photonics science and engineering organizations.

The goal is "to excite, engage, and educate students about the fascination of working with light," says Amrita Prasad, CEO of the not-for-profit EYESTvzw (Excite Youth for Engineering, Science, and Technology), which handles large-scale distribution of the kits. EYEST provides teachers with hands-on-experimental material paired with an inquiry-based didactic framework for classroom use, given free of change in conjunction with teacher training courses.

The preliminary study by the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN) evaluated 427 students in 25 classrooms. Both self-efficacy and performance of the students increased after working with the kits, and both increased significantly for female students, Prasad says. Students in general viewed physics as more creative and important, and demonstrated an increase in interest in science as a whole.

A more comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of the Photonics Explorer kit involving more than 75 classrooms will be completed by November 2012.

Already field-tested with more than 1,500 students in 7 countries, the kit will be introduced into schools in more countries, including Austria and Sweden, in early 2013. The didactic content is currently available in 8 European languages.

As well as increasing interest and proficiency, the Photonics Explorer program informs students about opportunities in working in photonics and other light-related professions, Prasad says. As a result, she noted, the program is "a smart investment in the next generation of engineers and scientists."

For more information, please visit www.photonicsexplorer.eu.

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