Celebrating the OSA Centennial with the Lightwave Roadshow

By University of Southampton Chapter

The Lightwave Roadshow is the University of Southampton chapter's student-led outreach education programme. The Roadshow traces its root back to 1998 when it was established to provide hands-on optics experiments for young children under the age of 10 in classes or fairs for families. More recently, the programme has expanded its scope to work with school pupils up to the age of 18, as well as with an adult audience to engage the public on our research in photonics and optoelectronics. In parallel, more and more student members from our chapter have been actively involved in the running of the programme, growing the number of events in which we could participate. The events and venues are diverse: from the traditional classrooms, school assembly halls and exhibitions on our university campus, to the more unusual venues such as pubs, cathedrals and international scientific conferences, we are exploring many ways to engage with different audiences to inform about the fundamentals and applications of photonics. In 2016, we worked with over 1,600 members of the general public and 1,083 pupils from 38 different schools in the South of England.

The Lightwave Roadshow at the 2016 Winchester Cathedral Primary Science Festival
The Lightwave Roadshow at the 2016 Winchester Cathedral Primary Science Festival

The OSA Centennial Special Event Grant supported the development of new activities for classroom-based engagement. Using the Photonics Explorer kit, we have implemented new classes on interference and the human eye to complement areas of the UK national curriculum. We have diversified our extensive activity for children aged 6-14 years, and developed more challenging classes for pupils aged 14-18 years. Our classes have emphasis on experimentation and problem solving, for which we receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from the teachers accompanying their pupils.

New classroom-based workshops on interference for students aged 14-18 years have been incorporated into our programme’s educational activity with the aid of the Photonics Explorer Kit.

The OSA Centennial Special Event Grant gave us the resources to expand our reach and the visibility of the celebration of this anniversary. First, by giving a unified identity to our Ambassadors with matching polos with OSA100 logos that have been used throughout the year in our events. Second, with educational consumables in the form of OSA100 diffraction gratings, handed out to visitors in fairs for them to experience and learn about diffraction of light. Third, OSA100 pens used by hundreds of children in fairs and classes to complete quizzes, and surveys for adults. These consumables provide us with a direct measure of the reach of our activity, and some quantification of the nature and quality of the engagement.

Lightwave Ambassadors at the 2016 University of Southampton Science and Engineering Day.

The evaluation of our activity is important. Paper and electronics quizzes and surveys enable us to assess the assimilation of knowledge and gather feedback on the activity. Our workshops have been described as "fun", "interactive", "enjoyable", "brilliant". It is rewarding and motivating to have these traces of positive feedback and demonstrations that knowledge has been acquired during our interaction. Every so often an inspired pupil or member of the public will leave us with the impression that a positive impact has been made by our activity.

Feedback obtained from Year 6 pupil at the 2016 Winchester Cathedral Primary Science Festival.

The programme ambassadors also benefit from taking part in the outreach activity. There are benefits to communication and presentation skills as a result of having to explain scientific concepts to a wide range of audiences. The programme leaders also develop skills for event and team management, and have learnt to work with a wide range of partners both internal and external to our university. The experiences have been described as “enjoyable”, “rewarding”, “memorable” and “motivating”.

We are deeply grateful towards the OSA for their continued support of the Lightwave Roadshow, and we look forward to continue our outreach education mission in the years to come.


Posted: 6 December 2016 by University of Southampton Chapter | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.


Share this: