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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA optical science students put on Laser Fun Day for kids

    Cheyenne Merrick
    Two volunteers use a large Fresnel lens to direct the light from the sun to a focused point, creating energy to melt pennies. The Fresnel lens and many other hands-on activities were avilable to teach kids about science at last weekend’s Laser Fun Day

    What do kids and UA optical science and engineering students have in common? They both love lasers.

    UA students thought of a way to play with some cool lasers and teach kids about the field of optical science at the same time: by hosting a Laser Fun Day for kids. The College of Optical Sciences hosted its sixth annual Laser Fun Day in the Meinel Optical Sciences building on Saturday, March 26.

    The event included an array of booths, activities and demonstrations created by UA students. Laser Fun Day aimed to encourage kids and young adults to learn more about optical science and engineering. Kids had the chance to explore the floors of the building and participate in demonstrations and activities like watching a cow eye ball dissection and observing the optical lens, avoiding lasers in the laser maze, and shooting a laser at a target at the laser arcade station.

    “I came up with the concept for the laser arcade, which involves a water squirt gun rigged with a laser diode on the front, which is powered by the squirt gun’s trigger,” said Kaitlyn Williams, a senior studying optical science and engineering and this year’s Laser Fun Day coordinator. “The laser beam must be aimed at a far away moving detector, and the longer the player keeps the beam pointed at the detector, the more points the player will accrue.”

    Laser Fun Day was also an educational experience that included stations in astronomy, optics in nature and women in optics. Kids explored various aspects of the field of optical science and were able to get hands-on experience through activities like looking through a solar telescope, taking a picture of their body image with an infrared camera and watching an astronomy show in the student-built planetarium.

    The event is organized and run every year by members of the student-run organization, Student Optics Chapter, which is the UA’s representative chapter for the Optical Society and the International Society for Optics and Photonics.

    “We are an organization that provides an educational, professional and social outlet for undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Optical Sciences,” Williams said.

    The club is involved in both the college and in outreach events, including hosting science demonstrations at middle schools and a booth at the Tucson Festival of Books. Optical science students spend all year preparing for the event, creating the demonstrations and booths themselves.

    “We are applying things we learn in class and lab,” said Andrew Rocha, a senior studying optical sciences and engineering. “The greatest thing about everything that we showcase here is that it’s a lot cheaper and a lot more accessible than you think. The kits we use generally cost around $40, so these are projects middle schoolers can actually do themselves.”

    Laser Fun Day will return next year with new activities and demonstrations to inspire kids to learn about optical science and see how fun lasers can be.

    Follow Cheyenne Merrick on Twitter.

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