In my previous letter to members, I mentioned some of the important outreach activities that SPIE is undertaking internationally, to the corporate world, to support early career professionals and to encourage students. Outreach is an important function for SPIE, whether it be helping researchers to collaborate on important new topics like biophotonics and LEDs or introducing new audiences to the great potential of the field of optics and photonics.
From high efficiency solar cells producing electricity on our factories to inexpensive tools to diagnose cancer, the technologies covered by SPIE will play an important part in shaping the future.
As we talk to corporate and institutional organizations, we hope to excite the leaders of these organizations about the important role optics and photonics play in the technological advances of the future, and to stimulate their support of some of our programs, which will help us to reach more audiences.
Of course, increasing awareness and reaching out to students are key to the future of our field. To this end, SPIE has introduced an enhanced Education Outreach Grant program open to all qualifying not-for-profit organizations such as universities, optics centers, science centers, industry associations, national optical societies, and primary and secondary schools. Grants can also be provided for visiting lecturers, Hands-On-Optics educational kits, and science fair prizes or club activities that introduce students to photonics. These are just a few examples of how we hope to help develop the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.
But we want to do even more.
The SPIE Education Committee is collecting information on activities by our members and new ideas on how to enhance and expand our outreach activities to meet local needs. Perhaps you have an idea or are currently engaged with your local schools or science centers?
We would like to hear your suggestions on how we can enhance our current plans to reach future scientists and engineers as well as those working in other fields who would benefit from more knowledge of optics and photonics. Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of related interest, a recent report issued by the Millennium project at the University of Michigan entitled “Engineering for a Changing World” speaks to the need to infuse more practical knowledge in curriculum, provide for lifelong learning opportunities, and to improve the status of engineering as a profession.
Author James Duderstadt advocates for creation of graduate level professional schools specifically for engineers, similar to those that prepare doctors and lawyers, and he argues that these changes are needed to serve a knowledge-driven global economy based on technological innovation.
Although the report focuses on education in the United States, Maria Yzuel, SPIE president-elect who teaches optics in the Physics Department at University Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain), concurs that “Many of the recommendations can be applied to other regions of the world.”
In the past few years, SPIE has enhanced its short course programs at our conferences as well as increased in-company course offerings to help address this need and to provide ongoing professional development opportunities to keep pace with technological change in the world.
SPIE also supports the Asian College on Optical Engineering, the Optics Winter College, and the Education and Training in Optics and Photonics conference.
Reaching out to both current and future engineers and scientists is an important step in developing the qualified people that we need to realize this future.
As part of SPIE’s outreach efforts, the Society provides free educational materials about optics, such as posters and DVDs, to teachers and other educators. To request these materials, contact Pascale@spie.org.
Have an idea about how to increase optics awareness among students? SPIE provides support for optics-related education and outreach projects. Grant applications are reviewed twice a year. The next application deadline is 6 June. More information: http://spie.org/outreach
Hands-On Optics (HOO) is an inquiry-based science education enrichment program that strives to increase scientific literacy by helping kids learn by doing. Six informal learning modules for grades 4 to 12 are aimed at reaching students who traditionally have been under-represented in the field of optics and photonics. SPIE is one of several collaborating organizations promoting this program by offering training workshops for educators and other resources. For more information about HOO and other resources for educators, see http://spie.org/educators