The project is collaboration between two scientific societies, the Optical Society of America (OSA) and SPIE - The
International Society for Optical Engineering and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). The program is
designed to bring science education enrichment to thousands of underrepresented middle school students in more than
ten states, including female and minority students, who typically have not been the beneficiaries of science and
engineering resources and investments. HOO provides each teacher with up to six activity modules, each containing
enough materials for up to 30 students to participate in 6-8 hours of hands-on optics-related activities. Sample activities,
developed by education specialists at NOAO, include building kaleidoscopes and telescopes, communicating with a
beam of light, and a hit-the-target laser beam challenge. Teachers engage in two days of training and, where possible, are
partnered with a local optics professional (drawn from the local rosters of SPIE and OSA members) who volunteers to
spend time with the teacher and students as they explore the module activities. Through these activities, students gain
experience and understanding of optics principles, as well as learning the basics of inquiry, critical thinking, and
problem solving skills involving optics, and how optics interfaces with other disciplines. While the modules were
designed for use in informal after- school or weekend sessions, the number of venues has expanded to large and small
science centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts, summer camps, family workshops, and use in the classroom.
Hands-On Optics: Making an Impact with Light (HOO) is a three-year informal science program designed to bring optics education to tens of thousands of underserved students nationwide. SPIE-The International Society for Optical Engineering and the Optical Society of America (OSA), along with Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), were awarded a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2003 to implement this national science enrichment program intended for children in middle school (approximately 11 to 14 years old).
Hands-On Optics (HOO) is a collaborative three-year program to create and sustain a unique, national, informal science education program to excite students about science by actively engaging them in optics activities. It will reach underrepresented middle school cohorts in science and technology, and connect with their parents, teachers, school districts and communities.