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SPIE Professional April 2007

Chapters Reach Out to Communities

Through innovative optics programs, SPIE Student Chapters have affected thousands of people in the last year alone.

By Dirk Fabian

What can 1600 enthusiastic optics students do in a year? SPIE student chapter members have led an incredible number of outstanding outreach projects in the past year, affecting their institutions, their communities, and their peers. One benefit of the chapter program is the ability to connect and share ideas with other knowledgeable and resourceful student members all over the world.
By far, the most amazing aspect of the SPIE Student Chapter Program is the wide-ranging impact on optics and physics education in the local community. More than 2800 young students and educators have taken part in programs designed or supported by student chapter members in the past six months alone. Programs ranged from basic introductions to optics principles for elementary students to advanced optical communications experiments for early undergraduate students.
In León, Mexico, students at the Centro de Investigaciones en Óptica created workshops to introduce optics to local teachers. The program was so successful that every science teacher in León and surrounding areas has since received this training.
In 2006, many chapters took up the challenge of hosting large public outreach projects. Student chapters in Poland participated in the annual "Festivals of Science" where hundreds of students enjoyed innovative demonstrations and hands-on learning experiences. In Mexico, chapters organized several after-school science clubs that now serve more than 400 pre-university students.
There is no concrete method for spreading interest in optics; outreach programs are as varied as the chapters themselves, and are bolstered still further by the ingenuity and creativity of dedicated members (see sidebar).
Each year student chapters design graduate-level curricula, build relationships with schools, and serve as optics pioneers in their local communities. Through well thought-out, scalable programs, students are leaving their mark on local communities as they bring optics and photonics to a new generation of scientists.

Best Ideas 2006
Thousands of young students, teachers, and community members benefited from optics and physics outreach activities put on by student chapter members in 2006. Planning these activities requires hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm.
If you are looking for ideas to jump-start or expand outreach activities at your institution, the student chapter reports are an excellent resource. Available online at www.spie.org/studentchapters, these reports detail the outreach being done by current chapters, and can serve as idea generators for your own projects.

Dirk Fabian, SPIE Student Services Lead

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200704.12