ERC Offers Optics After School (OAS) Workshop for High School Students

Achievement date: 
2013
Outcome/accomplishment: 

The Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology (ERC EUV), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center headquartered at Colorado State University (CSU), offers an annual Optics After School (OAS) Workshop–a tradition involving 227 high school students from Poudre High School (PHS) in Fort Collins during the past nine years. The last Workshop was attended by 24 students at four afternoon sessions or one half-day session on President’s Day.

Impact/benefits: 

This Workshop provides science and engineering insights for students, thereby supporting the U.S.-wide need for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. In particular, during the Workshop students are able to relax and ask questions about STEM careers.

Explanation/Background: 

At the Workshop students participate in experiments devoted to different aspects of light/optics, including fundamental laws of optics, optical fibers, and lasers. The experiments are based on an undergraduate optics lab offered at CSU. The students are given a brief lecture by the Education Director, Dr. Goncz, before the class that covers the science of each concept. Then, in groups, they complete investigations in the Optics Lab mentored by Center students. The high school students are required to answer a series of questions on the experiments as well as perform calculations to analyze the data.

At the end of the workshop, students receive completion certificates in recognizing their efforts (see accompanying figure). The venue is a pizza party with graduate students and faculty, followed by a tour of the laboratories. Academic aspects of the Workshop and confidence achievements are enhanced by interaction with graduate students. These interactions are valuable because graduate students are closer to being a peer group than teachers or parents.