Laser Fun Day at University of Arizona

By Student Optics Chapter, James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences

On the heels of the ninth annual Laser Fun Day, organized by the OSA Student Chapter of the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona, U.S.A., organizers are considering new elements for next year’s event such as a virtual reality gaming station to attract more attendees.

Caption: OSA Student Chapter of University of Arizona demonstrating the Augmented Reality (AR) sandbox

Credit: Benjamin Cromey 

The Laser Fun Day, which took place 20 April 2019, occurred on three floors of the college building featuring demonstrations ranging from a laser maze, Augmented Reality (AR) sandbox, cow-eye dissections and many more designed to engage local primary and secondary school students in optics.

More than 550 guests representing some 30 schools participated in the event with demonstrations conducted by approximately 100 graduate and undergraduate volunteers from the college. The event provided a perfect opportunity for freshmen and sophomore students just getting started in the optics program to be involved in outreach with the Student Optics Chapter.

Participants spent the day roaming in and around the halls of the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences building visiting all of the demonstrations at their own pace.  Kids had fun playing with the student-built AR sandbox. With this demo they could watch a changing topographic map responding in real time to the changes in sand levels. Student volunteers showed guests optical phenomena such as total internal reflection using laser beams shone through various plastics.

Both kids and parents were excited to observe a Fresnel lens that focused light such that it would burn through rocks. Cow eye dissections happened every half hour, resulting in excited children and often queasy parents learning about the anatomy of an eye and the optical properties of each component.

Caption: Laser fun day participants observe the Fresnel lens 

Credit: Matt Latta

Everyone had a blast in the laser maze stationed in a darkened lecture hall. Participants attempted to pass through the laser maze without breaking one of the beams and setting off a buzzer. Polarimetry demonstrations also excited kids as they watched a phenomenon called birefringence change light as it passed through transparent plastics as they were bent and stretched.  

A demonstration of linearly polarized sunglasses was also a delight. A new art in optics station run by the College of Optical Sciences Women in Optics chapter, took over half of the fifth floor, allowing students to create various optical science related crafts that they could take home after the event.

Caption: Participants pose with diffraction glasses at Laser Fun Day 

Credit: Matt Latta 

This year, the community involvement was spectacular as guests explored our optics and photonics themed demonstrations throughout the building. Next year will be our 10th Annual Laser Fun Day and we plan to bring even more light to the public.

Because the student-made demonstration, ‘Augmented Reality Sandbox’ was a huge hit this year, we are looking to expand this concept in the upcoming year.

Next year’s details are not yet solidified, but we hope to include a Laser Fun Day app, an augmented reality room and a virtual reality gaming station. We are hopeful that these new elements will make for an even better optics and photonics event.


Posted: 22 May 2019 by Student Optics Chapter, James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences | with 0 comments

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