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Learning about light: education outreach projects funded in 10 countries through first round of SPIE grants

17 May 2013

Optics Institute of Southern California

The Optics Institute of Southern California's new Artricks-Optricks program, demonstrating the principles of light, vision, and other optical phenomena, captures the attention of students participating in Optricks and OptoBotics activities during the recent University of California, Irvine's Beall Center for Art + Technology Family Day; photo courtesy SPIE Senior Member Donn Silberman, Founding Director of OISC.


BELLINGHAM, USA -- Through science fairs, workshops, kits for building optical instruments, teacher trainings, and funds for lab equipment, 25 organizations will continue their work to increase awareness about the relevance and importance of optics and photonics in daily life with the aid of SPIE Education Outreach Grants.

The organizations, located in 10 countries, are the first of two groups of recipients for grants to be awarded by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, in 2013.

The 25 organizations will share a total $67,000. Applications for the second round of grants are due 31 May, and awards will be announced later this year.

Recipients selected this round include universities and student groups that will promote optics and photonics to thousands of students attending science fairs such as the London Big Bang Fair in the UK and the Cambridge Science Festival in the USA as well as after-school science enrichment programs in Mexico, Poland, India, and elsewhere.

Some SPIE Education Outreach grants will go to support teacher trainings and the purchase of optical equipment for primary and secondary schools so that students can learn through hands-on experience.

The Addis Ababa Institute of Technology, for example, will purchase optical kits, instruments, and lab equipment to enable classroom demonstrations and experiments, and students in the SPIE Student Chapter at Koç University in Turkey will organize the eighth annual solar-powered model vehicle race.

The U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory and Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy plan to use their SPIE grant money to conduct teacher workshops with Galileoscopes in northern Chile. They will then distribute the high-quality, low-cost telescopes to students in 10 science academies in the region.

The Galileoscope was developed for educational outreach by astronomers, optical engineers, and science educators during the International Year of Astronomy 2009. It can be used as a hands-on activity to explore the optics of lenses as well as the night sky.

The Center for Integrated Access Networks at the University of Arizona received an award for activities that encourage under-represented minority students, especially Native Americans, to master optical science concepts and pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

As part of its mission, SPIE provides support for optics and photonics educational activities organized by not-for-profit organizations such as schools and colleges, optics centers, youth clubs, and science centers to increase optics and photonics awareness. The award process for the grants is competitive; applications are judged on their potential to impact students and increase optics awareness.

SPIE provided more than $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.

For more information, see http://spie.org/x36692.xml.

First-round recipients of SPIE Education Outreach Grant for 2013 are:

  • Addis Ababa Institute of Technology
  • Alberta Science Literary Association
  • Aston University
  • Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School
  • Cambridge Science Festival
  • Center for Integrated Access Networks, University of Arizona
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Óptica
  • Frankfort High School
  • Fruitvale Independent School District
  • Gdańsk University of Technology
  • Huntsville Electro-Optical Society
  • Idaho State University
  • Imperial College London
  • Indian Institute of Science Education and Research-Kolkata
  • Kent State University Tuscarawas
  • Kettering University
  • Koç University
  • Laser Research Institute, University of Stellenbosch, SPIE Student Chapter
  • The Leonardo
  • National Optical Astronomy Observatory/Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
  • Norwalk High School
  • Oakwood High School
  • Optics Institute of Southern California
  • St. Petersburg State University Aerospace Instrumentation, SPIE Student Chapter
  • University of Utah.

SPIE Centro de investigaciones en Optica Student Chapter

SPIE Student Chapter members at the Centro de investigaciones en Optica in León, Mexico, sent SPIE the laser-"drawn" photo message above along with a recent grant report. CIO students gave optics workshops to children and teenagers in isolated communities situated from 30 to 200 miles from León. A variety of workshops have been developed by CIO students, all focused on a solar kitchen lesson that teaches about alternative energy sources and can be used in helping to improve the local economy. So far, 5,000 children and teenagers -- mostly 10- to 12-year-olds -- in 100 communities have been reached through the program, said CIO outreach coordinator and SPIE Senior Member Cristina Solano.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 235,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012.


Media contact:
Amy Nelson
Public Relations Manager, SPIE
+1 360 685 5478