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SPIE Professional July 2010

Photonics Explorer: Dynamic education kit

SPIE Europe is supporting the development of the Photonics Explorer, an educational kit – with a difference. While most educational outreach projects are designed as extra-curricular activities, the Photonics Explorer will be designed to integrate smoothly into the regular secondary-level science teaching.

Photonics Explorer
A student in Brussels examines the anti-reflection coating on a piece of glass. Courtesy Photonics Explorer program.

It will thus help teachers to reach the educational targets set in their curricula while offering students exciting hands-on experiments with up-to-date photonics technologies.

This approach is expected to have a larger, long-lasting impact on the way photonics is presented at Europe’s secondary schools, especially since the kits will be free.

More than 30 teachers and science education professors from 10 countries have teamed up with experts in photonics to create the didactic framework of the kit.

"Many years of outreach have taught us to work closely together with teachers." says Hugo Thienpont, the coordinator of the development team at Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s B-Phot (Belgium) and a member of the SPIE Board of Directors.

The teachers and others in the group developing the kits know that hands-on experiments are imperative. What would be the point of studying a foreign language’s grammar and vocabulary for years if you are never allowed to build your own sentence?

The EU has granted more than 500,000 from the 7th Framework Program to fund the project. Several companies have sponsored material for hands-on experiments, and many individuals support the program with their personal skills, most of them as volunteers. For instance, Maria J. Yzuel, the SPIE 2009 President, is serving on the program’s Strategic Advisory Board. SPIE Europe is also contributing multimedia material that will be included in the educational kit.

The Photonics Explorer kits will be available in French, Spanish, German, Bulgarian, English, Dutch, and Polish after field tests are complete in December 2011.

Information: Photonics Explorer

Science wisdom

Nobel Laureate and SPIE Gold Medal winner Charles Townes advises the beginning scientist to Pick the things that you find most interesting, then work intensively.

If you have a failure, just work your path around it and do something else. And if you find some troubles, well, … you learn something from that.

To learn more about Townes’ approach to science and to see and hear him reminisce about the formative years of the laser, go to the SPIE Newsroom laser video series.

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201007.17

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