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Exposing Science to Those All Around

Oxford Optics and Photonics Student Society (OxOPS)

The Oxford Optics and Photonics Society (OxOPS) joined forces with the Oxford Hands-on-Science (OxHOS) society to realise an unprecedented Science roadshow in the UK. A tour in Oxfordshire (first week) and South Wales (second week) visiting schools and public venues with plenty of Science experiments was carried out with massive success! Thanks to the OSA Centennial Special Events Grant, the total cost of this big event running through two weeks, several locations, with many volunteers and plenty of enthusiasm was totally fundraised; this in turn allowed the whole event to run as planned, and even better. OxHOS, also a student society at Oxford University, was leading the activity and raised most of the money. They were in charge of the administration processes and the coordination of over 80 volunteers including all the members of our OSA chapter. The whole setup included demonstrations on all the fields of science: from Kiwi DNA, fruit batteries, blood pressure, membrane vibrations, air convection, to the dynamo, conservation of angular momentum and, of course, very cool optical experiments; all together in the same rooms or street with plenty of interested public, mostly children.

Our first activity was at the Oxford Science festival with public demonstrations on two different locations simultaneously: outdoors in a popular street and indoors in the city hall. This happened on Sunday 26th of June for five exhausting but extremely rewarding hours, when groups of spontaneous people visited us to learn about optics and science in general. Throughout the day, three members of our chapter presented all the optics experiments we have built over time, the new ones allowed by the Centennial Special Events Grant and the Optics Suitcase; alongside many other experiments in other fields of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and engineering. During the week from June 27th to July 1st, the roadshow visited four public schools in and around Oxford. It is worth mentioning that all the schools we visited were chosen in such a way that students from deprived communities or low access to science education were benefited. For the whole school day, grade after grade – in middle or primary school years— were brought to the room especially conditioned to host all the science we brought (and mess associated to some of them – Science is fun after all!). We divided all the students in small groups such that they were visiting simultaneously all the different experiments before moving to the next one until completing all of them. Members of our Chapter participated during these days presenting our experiments on fluorescence, diffraction, refraction and light guiding. However, a superb polarization experiment full of color, implemented using an old LED display stole the show, after all, how is it possible to see so many colors if tape is transparent? On July 3rd, a group of volunteers full of energy and equipped with a Van carrying plenty of science experiments and camping equipment travelled to South Wales for the second week of the roadshow. For five days, the team did it again! Same methods, similar audience, science as its best was once more demonstrated in different locations, both public venues and schools, while camping at the same time and having time to enjoy the Welsh landscape in summer.

Overall, the activity was a complete success. Plenty of happiness expressions after discovering the wonders of science, volunteers satisfied, many lessons learnt and audience/other volunteers got to know about OSA. We consider that all the goals were fulfilled, those being:
• Provide interactive science activities to students who do not normally have access to them due to financial or geographical restraints
• Encourage young people to continue to study science subjects by making science more exciting, relevant and accessible
• Combat stereotypes about who scientists are, by taking groups of young scientists into school communities
• Demonstrate the relevance of science to everyday life, such as in health and medicine

We thank OSA for supporting our initiative through the Centennial Special Events Grant and congratulate them for 100 years and more to come!

PS. As part of the centennial grant, we also received 10 Explore Optics Kit. Although they arrived a bit late for this activity, we will make sure they are used in future activities! Further information and a very detailed report including feedback, outcome and more accurate figures will be available on the OxHOS website soon (note the OSA logo in the sponsors list!). Also, please visit their Twitter account for more pictures and details of these two fascinating weeks. Due to Children care policies, we were not allowed to take pictures at the schools. However, they took some and will be sending some to us in the coming weeks.
Image for keeping the session alive