Optics chapter sets sights on engaging community
The UA Student Optics Chapter has a lot of vision.
The club hosts events throughout the year in order to build a bridge between the optics department and students, engage with the community and spark an interest in science as a whole.
The International Society for Optics and Photonics and the Optical Society of America funds the majority of the chapter, whose mission includes acting as a student chapter for these societies. This gives students in the department professional opportunities in the field of optics and provides communication between students and faculty or administration, according to Student Optics Chapter President Zach Newman, an optical sciences graduate student.
Although it is mostly made up of graduate students, the chapter welcomes undergraduate students to participate as well, Newman said. Each year, members work together to plan events that will engage the community.
The most recent event the chapter hosted was Laser Fun Day, which allowed attendees to learn about optics in an interesting way. Participants got the chance to eat liquid nitrogen ice cream, learn the history of optics and partcipate in activities such as a laser maze.
“A lot of people don’t realize science can be fun, but it’s seeing stuff like this that can spark interest in science,” said Brittany Lynn, a doctoral student and outreach coordinator for the chapter. “If you spark it young enough, you get kids, even if they don’t go into science, that pay attention to it when they get older and that will be more aware of world events and the way things move.”
Some parents agreed that events like Laser Fun Day can spark an interest in students as well as increase their understanding of science.
“I think it’s fun, it’s a chance to bring my younger daughter out,” said Henry Knoepfle, an engineer who brought his 7-year-old daughter to the event. “The benefit of events like these is a better science education and understanding of some of how these day-to-day things work.”
At the event, students walked around taking in the different exhibits, while also learning how to pass their knowledge along to others.
“It’s pretty cool, because when you go to the board your shadow is still there … even if you’re at a different place,” said Marisol Aparicio, a kindergartner at Blenman Elementary School, explaining a flash lamp exhibit. “I learned that the shadows stay on the board because the paint is getting excited and that’s on the board.”
Each event hosted is targeted toward the community in order to stimulate interest in science, according to Newman.
“Most kids won’t remember about optics, but if three weeks down the line they stay interested then maybe they can go their own way from there and get into science,” Newman said. “This is really about getting a spark of interest for kids and then they do the rest themselves. It helps to have something fun and exciting to get their interest started.”