Education 2001-02

NES/OSA Education Outreach 2001-02

Education Committee Chairman: Malcolm Chamberlain

Massachusetts State Science Fair

We contributed to the Mass. Science Fair at MIT in early May, 2002.

  1. We donated $750 for one $500 and one $250 award, and a further $250 toward operating expenses. This total was partly offset by a $500 activity grant from OSA.
  2. We also provided a demo of various optics phenomena with the "Optics Suitcase". This was headed up by Marc Daigle, with help from four others. This was well received by the kids even though we didn't see many teachers.

This event was the final of a series of regional science fairs around the state at the high school level. The same organization also runs an equivalent series at the middle school level. The high school final is at MIT in early May, the middle school final is usually at Worcester State College in early June. For 2003 we plan to be involved in both; in fact it could be argued that the middle school event might be more important for us as we'd get the kids interested earlier.

We got into it rather hastily this year and did not have time to properly consider all of the suggestions made by our membership. Starting earlier, with a more deliberate approach, we should be able to do an even better job next time. Our involvement was however, well received by the organizers and we'll be welcome back next year.

Both series of fairs also need judges; there is a place for individual volunteers to register on their web site. This web site will be updated for judge recruiting, scheduling etc. for the 2003 series, sometime later in 2002.

Project PHOTON

Project PHOTON was an initiative of the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE) . The purpose was to train New England middle-school, secondary-school and postsecondary educators and career counselors to introduce photonics education into the classroom. The project was funded by a grant from the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

We provided a number of volunteers to an e-mail listserve to answer questions from teachers who'd been through a workshop to prepare them to introduce photonics into their school curriculum. Formal funding etc. for PHOTON may have ended but so long as the listserve stays up we can continue to provide support. This costs us nothing. Our members have made a considerable contribution toward clearing up a number of misconceptions among some teachers. They're trying to teach stuff which didn't exist when they were trained and need this kind of back-up.


  • NEBHE is submitting a proposal to NSF for a new expanded version of PHOTON. We have sent them a letter of intent to provide similar support to this program.
  • This new project is expected to begin in Fall 2003.
  • All of our current PHOTON mentors, and other interested/qualified
    members are invited to continue as mentors for PHOTON II.


The spelled-out title of this program is fairly self-explanatory: Retirees Enhancing Science Education through Experiments & Demonstrations. This is an national program, started in this area from Northeastern University, and now also being implemented in Sweden. NES/OSA is not involved as an organization but would like to encourage retired members to consider joining.
One of our members (Henry Minden) has been involved in this program for some time, on his own initiative, and tells us he found it to be quite a positive experience. If you're interested in getting involved, he would be happy to provide more information. 


Another summary of our recent education activities appears in OSA's Focal Point newsletter for June 2002.