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Lasers and Industry Advocacy

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2013
Colette DeHarpporte, founder of Laser Classroom, left a job in curriculum design when project funding ran out, and bought her father’s laser pointer business. Realizing the limited prospects there, she sought information from some of the company’s biggest customers: science education suppliers who sold the laser pointers to teachers looking for a simple way to introduce light and laser technology to their students.

Armed with ideas from educators about how they used the laser pointers, she approached an engineer, and together they created Laser Blox, an affordable, easy-to-use stackable laser trio that is the main event in the EPIC Adopt a Classroom Kit (See boxes on pages 67 and 68). “In designing this product,” DeHarpporte said, “I worked very hard to incorporate design elements that would appeal to both teachers and students.”

Created for students in both introductory high school and college settings, Laser Blox are available in 532-nm (green), 635-nm (red) and 405-nm (violet) wavelengths and can be stacked magnetically to create a ray box for studying geometric optics. The kit comes with nine exercises that Lee says may evolve over time. “We’re going to distribute the kits by the hundreds, and we will get feedback,” he said.

Laser Blox launched one year ago last month, and DeHarpporte has spent the past year learning about the photonics industry’s workforce needs. What she learned, she says, has turned her into something of an industry advocate.

“I looked a lot into what’s happening at the primary level with photonics,” DeHarpporte said. Finding very little available, she sees a great opportunity to make photonics more understandable, digestible and just more “known” in general.

Together, Laser Classroom and EPIC will track teachers and the program’s impacts. “This is a brand new component,” DeHarpporte said. It is a model she will be looking to expand worldwide.

The kits, which can be ordered directly from Laser Classroom (, will be made available to interested teachers across Europe beginning at the start of school this autumn.

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