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OSA Funds Optics Programs

Photonics.com
Dec 2007
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2007 -- The OSA Foundation is funding an exhibition on optical illusions and three new optics-related science education programs.

"Perceptual Relativity," a permanent interactive exhibit exploring individual perception through optical illusions, opened last week at the University of Nevada, Reno's (UNR) Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center. Two dozen interactive displays illustrate principles of light, vision and visual perception through optical and perceptual illusions. The illusions are all related to a central theme from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: that varying view­points can produce completely different perceptions of a single phenomenon. The exhibit allows visitors to explore illusions where stationary figures appear to move, lines and colors are warped by their surroundings and entirely new perceptions emerge simply by turning a picture.

The exhibition was developed by faculty from the UNR psychology department and funded in part by a grant from the OSA Foundation. Stuart Anstis, a professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego, and an expert on human perception, spoke at the opening reception.

Gary Bjorklund, OSA Foundation Board chair, said, "Visual illusions are a great way for students of all ages to explore and get excited about optics. With 40,000 visitors to the planetarium each year, the exhibit is sure to have an impact on students' perceptions of science."

The OSA Foundation also recently approved funding for an optics curriculum for at Eastconn, a nonprofit education service center; for an optics education and hands-on demonstration program developed by the OSA Rochester (NY) local section; and for the distribution of educational materials to developing nations.

“It is our core belief that all students should have access to quality science education and interactive scientific learning programs,” Bjorklund said. “These three new programs have a special emphasis on bringing the science of optics to school-aged children and introducing it in an exciting way."

Eastconn serves 36 school districts in mostly rural northeast Connecticut; it provides educational programs for students and professional development workshops for teachers. This grant would integrate optics into their current curriculum by providing funding for three years for four program components: “Optics in the Classroom!” professional development workshops targeting fifth-grade teachers and providing lesson plans to incorporate the science of light into the regular curriculum; Investigating the Night-Time Sky ( Dark Skies), a student program studying the effects of light pollution and designed to generate enthusiasm and interest in the upcoming Year of Astronomy; a lending library

The grant to OSA's Rochester section is for Optics Suitcase and Liquid Crystal Mood Patch lessons. Optics Suitcase is a kit designed to bring hands-on optics activities to the classroom and includes reusable items for classroom presentations on color and light, as well as packets for students to take home, including liquid crystal paper, diffraction gratings and polarizers. In the Liquid Crystal Mood Patch Lesson students make a temperature sensitive cholesterol-based liquid crystal. The grant will fund the production and distribution of materials for these programs, provide support for volunteers willing to travel to underserved areas and give presentations, and assist local groups/educators find a volunteer to help with the presentations. The program has the potential to reach more than 4000 students in grades K-8.

The grant involving developing nations provides funding to fulfill requests for youth science education resources from volunteers and educators living in developing nations. vailable materials include “Optics: Light at Work” (DVD), Terrific Telescopes, Optics Discovery Kit, “Laser Technology: Changing Daily Life, Forging New Opportunities” (DVD), and a multilingual poster series and lesson guides.

For more informaiton, visit: osa-foundation.org


GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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