During the 2015 International Year of Light, Université Laval's SPIE Student Chapter volunteered to create a fully autonomous exhibition explaining the basics of light to the public. Composed of two informative banners and four modules each displaying a live experiment related to both fundamental and technological aspects of light, the goal of the exhibit A Meeting with Light was to illustrate the importance of light-based technologies and their role in our daily lives. Following its debut on campus, the exhibit traveled to several public libraries and major events such as Photonics North, IONS Québec and career fairs. Originating from student initiative and dedicated volunteer work from the Student Chapter, the project was made financially viable through a close collaboration with SPIE, The Optical Society (OSA) and partnerships with local optics-related companies.
Now more than two years after its first exposition and since meeting over 2000 people, it is possible to evaluate the factors that contributed to the success of the exhibit and of its continued use. A Meeting with Light is a great example of an outreach project that successfully reached its goal of promoting optics and photonics to a broader audience. In doing so, it brought together local leaders from academia, industry and government. We will discuss lessons learned by the Student Chapter in developing such a project, and we will hint at how it in influenced our next major outreach project for the first International Day of Light in May 2018.