The Photonic Games are a yearly outreach event created in 2008 to spark teenagers’ interest in light. In teams, high school students face several optics challenges designed to appeal to various abilities and interests. In the past 10 years, more than 1531 participants, 425 volunteers and 100 organizers have taken part in this unique student-organized activity. Following the 10th edition, past presidents took the time to reflect together on what they learnt from their experience and identified key elements explaining the long-lasting success of this initiative. Metrics have been defined to track the evolution of the activity’s efficiency and are presented herein.
It often takes one single event to interest teenagers in a topic that will become a passion or a career. It is in this spirit that
the SPIE and OSA Student Chapters at Université Laval created the Photonic Games three years ago, to kindle an
interest in teenagers towards studies and careers in optics. The activity, offered each year to more than a hundred grade
11 students, is divided in two parts. First, we offer a hands-on workshop in their classrooms about reflection, refraction,
dispersion, birefringence and polarization. A few days later, all the students come to the <i>Centre d'optique, photonique et
laser</i> (COPL) at Université Laval for a day of competition where a volunteer physics student accompanies each team of
four students. Challenges are various to promote the qualities that make great scientists: creativity, teamwork,
knowledge, inquisitiveness, self-confidence and perseverance. The first two editions of the Photonic Games have proven
to be beneficial for the students, teachers and volunteers, and we endeavor to improve it as we construct on our
experience with the past editions to fine-tune and improve the Photonic Games concept.
Nowadays, the generation of laser pulses focused to a spot size comparable to the wavelength and whose duration is only a few optical cycles of the electric field is achievable. Moreover, TM<sub>01</sub> laser pulses are of considerable interest, among other things, because of their remarkable focusing properties. In order to describe theoretically the spatiotemporal behaviour of such nonparaxial, ultrashort TM<sub>01</sub> pulses, one needs expressions of their electromagnetic fields. To obtain these expressions, Maxwell's equations must be solved rigorously. The method of the Hertz potential, the complex-source/sink model, and the use of a Poisson-like spectrum are exploited to solve the vectorial wave equation. Closed-form expressions for the electric and the magnetic fields of an isodiffracting TM<sub>01</sub> pulse are presented and they can be used to study the behaviour of tightly focused, ultrafast TM pulses.
The focusing properties of orthogonal optical systems that include a varied line-space grating with curved lines
can be analyzed efficiently with the ray matrices presented in this paper. These matrices are obtained by comparing the
true optical path length truncated to the second order and the eikonal function (the phase of the kernel appearing in the
Fresnel-Kirchhoff diffraction integral) expressed in terms of <i>ABCD</i>-matrix elements.
A method is proposed to minimize the impact of spectral aberrations in a monochromator based on a rectilinear
translation of a plane chirped grating. The chirped grating, that has a spatially variable groove spacing, is used to diffract
and to spectrally focus the radiation. The expression of the width of the instrument line shape due to aberrations have
been developed in order to obtain the optimal rectilinear trajectory required to operate the monochromator without
significant spectral aberrations. Experimental measurements of the emission spectrum of a five-wavelength Helium-Neon laser are presented, as well as the sensitivity of the monochromator performance to different geometrical
Expressions for the fields of transverse-magnetic laser beams in free space that are rigorous solutions to
Maxwell's equations are given in a closed form. The electric and the magnetic fields are both expressed in terms of
nonparaxial elegant Laguerre-Gaussian beams that are exact solutions of the Helmholtz equation. These solutions
involve spherical Bessel functions and associated Legendre functions. Radially polarized beams of arbitrary order are
considered and the lowest-order radially polarized beam (TM<sub>01</sub> beam) is investigated in detail.