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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

Modular and extensible lesson on fiber optics for youths
Author(s): Nicholas H. L. Wong; Amy S. K. Tong; Matthew T. Posner; Andrea Ravagli

Paper Abstract

Fiber optics and its application in telecommunications are rarely encountered by students until they reach tertiary education. While some secondary/middle school curricula may include coverage of basic geometrical optics concepts such as reflection and refraction, few if any go further to elaborate on how these eventually relate to global telecommunications. One could say that the science is made accessible for early-stage students, but discussions about applications are often reserved till later stages. In working through a PhD student-led optics educational outreach program called the “Lightwave Roadshow”, we have observed, via engagements with young students and the public at school visits and fairs, that many youths (as well as parents) do have a basic appreciation that the internet is somehow based on light signals. However, few know how the two are related, much less how they work. To address this, our team of ‘ambassadors’ in the Lightwave program has designed a self-contained lesson to introduce youths, aged 11 to 18 years, to fiber optics and optical fiber communications, drawing inspiration from various educational resources such as LASER ClassroomTM and the Exploratorium(R). The lesson is modularized into several parts, starting with using light to communicate Morse code, and then going into advanced concepts, such as total internal reflection and multiuser communications based on wavelength-division multiplexing. The latter can be treated as extensions whose inclusion can be tailored based on the youths’ educational levels. A feature of this lesson is that it takes amore phenomenological than theoretical approach, and uses materials that are easily obtainable or craftable as well as interesting for youths, including colored gelatin, LED sources, and water as a waveguide. We outline a lesson and pedagogical method which contains hands-on experiments that can be carried out by educators in formal or informal classes, students learning independently, or optics and photonics student chapters and groups doing educational outreach. The experiments within were first demonstrated at the 2016 OSA Frontiers in Optics/Laser Science conference.

Paper Details

Date Published: 16 August 2017
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 10452, 14th Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics: ETOP 2017, 104520S (16 August 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2266445
Show Author Affiliations
Nicholas H. L. Wong, Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom)
Amy S. K. Tong, Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom)
Matthew T. Posner, Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom)
Andrea Ravagli, Univ. of Southampton (United Kingdom)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10452:
14th Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics: ETOP 2017
Xu Liu; Xi-Cheng Zhang, Editor(s)

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