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Hands-On Optics | Practical Optics & Photonics Education Tools

Making an Impact with Light
Hands-On Optics (HOO) was a four-year informal science education program funded by a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The project was collaboration between SPIE, the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory(NOAO).

The program brought science education enrichment to thousands of underrepresented middle school students in more than ten states, including female and minority students, who typically have not been the beneficiaries of science and engineering resources and investments. HOO provided more than 100 teachers with up to six activity modules, each containing enough materials for up to 30 students to participate in 6-8 hours of hands-on optics-related activities. Sample activities, developed by education specialists at NOAO, include building kaleidoscopes and telescopes, communicating with a beam of light, and a hit-the-target laser beam challenge.

Through these activities, students gain experience and understanding of optics principles, as well as learning the basics of inquiry, critical thinking, and problem solving skills involving optics, and how optics interfaces with other disciplines. While the modules were designed for use in informal after- school or weekend sessions, the number of venues has expanded to large and small science centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts, summer camps, family workshops, and use in the classroom.

Hands-On Activities

I'm Under a Lot of Stress Here!
Structural engineers and other scientists are always trying to find ways to make structures lighter and stronger.

Fun With the Sun
The Sun gives off a great deal of energy in the ultraviolet (UV) range of the EM spectrum.

Hit the Target
This is the culminating activity, requiring students to use all the practiced skills from the previous activities.

Three Lasers Converging at a Focal Point: A Demonstration
In this activity, students will see how we can use the property of refraction to focus parallel rays of light.

Laser Light: An Activity
This simple activity will help students visualize the difference between laser light and normal light.

Multiple Reflections
We know that when light reflects off a plane mirror, the image appears left/right reversed.