Since 2013, we have been introducing topics in optics/photonics in middle and high school mathematics classes. Our goals have been to illustrate applications of mathematics to students who may not otherwise find mathematics useful, to promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and to introduce science and technology topics not usually addressed at these grade levels. In this paper we describe our activities, programs and their outcomes.
Over the course of an academic year, middle school students engaged in an exploration of some of the mathematics used in optics through hands-on inquiry-based experiments and exercises in problem-based learning. Goals were to introduce students to optics/photonics while demonstrating the relevance of math to the "real world". The program concluded with a capstone activity in the form of an art project celebrating “Light in Our Life”. Pre- and post surveys were conducted to determine changes in attitudes towards mathematics education. The year-long program was funded through an SPIE outreach grant.
A common complaint of engineering managers is that new employees at all levels, technician through engineer, tend to have rote calculation ability but are unable to think critically and use structured problem solving techniques to apply mathematical concepts. Further, they often have poor written and oral communication skills and difficulty working in teams. Ironically, a common question of high school mathematics students is “Why do I need to know this?” In this paper we describe a project using optics/photonics and Problem Based Learning (PBL) to address these issues in a high school calculus classroom.
Forty-five high school students engaged in hands-on optics applications of pre-calculus topics. Pre- and post-testing was conducted to determine changes in attitudes towards mathematics education. Experiments were performed in community college labs and in the high school classroom, facilitated by college and high school faculty and with the assistance of SPIE student chapter members. We will describe the structure and activities of the four-month program and pre/post test results.
By learning about the principles of optics, Connecticut high school students will be able to produce high quality
photographs using pinhole cameras. In this project, a class of photography students has partnered with a class of physics students to learn about optics, build pinhole cameras, use commercially available pinhole cameras and produce quality photographs. In this paper, the results of this student partnership under the guidance of the Laser and Fiber Optic Technology program at Three Rivers Community College and EASTCONN, a regional education service center will be explained.
Though light and vision has been included in the Connecticut science standards for several years, teachers continue to
look for new ways of teaching these concepts effectively. The students from the Three Rivers Community College SPIE
and OSA student chapters have partnered with EASTCONN, a regional education service center, to bring optics lessons
to the classroom. In this paper, the lessons that were demonstrated including spectroscopy, refraction, and reflection will be explained. With anecdotes from the student chapter members, fifth grade students and their teachers, the
effectiveness of these lessons and steps to improve them will be presented.