The 16th May 2018 marks the first annual International Day of Light (IDL). The steering committee of the IDL initiative encouraged grassroots activities to increase the awareness and understanding of the applications of light. One such undertaking is the program of events developed by the postgraduate students of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton (UoS). The program focused on engaging with the public and local schools with low levels of progression to higher education. Three events were designed: an outreach masterclass, combining activities and demonstrations from well-established workshops covering light in telecommunications, manufacturing and medicine; an art competition in a local school, for students to express scientific knowledge in a creative way; and a public panel, to explore the uses of light in a multitude of disciplines and open academic research to a broader audience. This paper explains how the events built on the ORC students’ long history of outreach and the legacy of the International Year of Light. Each event is outlined in detail, explaining the objectives and the rationale behind the audience selection. The program outcomes are described, including the impact, the methods employed and the utilization of expert partners to increase the program reach (commercial media, local schools and UoS’s diversity and inclusion outreach department), and the lessons learned from the program are assessed. These experiences can be used to recycle and adapt this format for other grassroots IDL programs. This project received funding through a SPIE IDL Micro Grant.
Ultrafast laser direct writing is a fascinating technology which emerged more than two decades from fundamental studies of material resistance to high-intensity optical fields. Its development saw the discovery of many puzzling phenomena and demonstration of useful applications. Today, ultrafast laser writing is seen as a technology with great potential and is rapidly entering the industrial environment. Whereas, less than 10 years ago, ultrafast lasers were still confined within the research labs. This talk will overview some of the unique features of ultrafast lasers and give examples of its applications in optical data storage, polarization control and optical fibers.
Universities in the United Kingdom have been driven to work with a larger pool of potential students than just the more traditional student (middle-class white male), in order to tackle the widely-accepted skills-shortage in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), whilst honoring their commitment to fair access to higher education. Student-led outreach programs have contributed significantly to this drive. Two such programs run by postgraduate students at the University of Southampton are the Lightwave Roadshow and Southampton Accelerate!, which focus on photonics and particle physics, respectively. The program ambassadors have developed activities to enhance areas of the national curriculum through presenting fundamental physical sciences and their applications to optics and photonics research. The activities have benefitted significantly from investment from international organizations, such as SPIE, OSA and the IEEE Photonics Society, and UK research councils, in conjunction with university recruitment and outreach strategies. New partnerships have been formed to expand outreach programs to work in non-traditional environments to challenge stereotypes of scientists. This paper presents two case studies of collaboration with education learning centers at Salisbury Cathedral and Winchester Cathedral. The paper outlines workshops and shows developed for pupils aged 6-14 years (UK key stages 2-4) on the electromagnetic spectrum, particle physics, telecommunications and the human eye using a combination of readily obtainable items, hand-built kits and elements from the EYEST Photonics Explorer kit. The activities are interactive to stimulate learning through active participation, complement the UK national curriculum and link the themes of science with the non-traditional setting of a cathedral. We present methods to evaluate the impact of the activity and tools to obtain qualitative feedback for continual program improvement. We also share lessons learned to assist educators emulating this format of engagement, and provide ideas and inspiration of outreach activities for student chapters to carry out.