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UK Schools Photonics Competition

International Year of Light Logo              

In 2015 the SOA ran a UK School Photonics Competition (SPC) on behalf of the UK Consortium for Photonics and Optics (UKCPO) which was looking to establish a lasting legacy of activity in the International Year of Light. The SPC offered all schools and similar organisations the opportunity to win up to £1,000 to support promoting photonics to their pupils and students. A number of schools and organisations applied and 11 projects were funded. Here's how they got on:

South West Dance Theatre

SWDT ran an event 'Light - from Big Bang to VJs' November 8, 2015. It was well attended by an estimated excess of 100 people with a real mix in age gender and background. People were getting equally animated about the art, design, tech and science aspects presented with lots of questions at the talks, interaction in the workshop and warm applauses in the show. In fact the reception was so encouraging they are already preparing something similar on another science theme for next year. You can see some of the event in the video links:

Light Lab and expo clips:
Light show clips 1:
Light show clips 2:

Donibristle Science Club

The funding provided by the UKCPO was used to purchase equipment for the inaugural session of Donibristle Science Club, an after-school club hosting 20 P6 & P7 pupils at Donibristle Primary School, Dalgety Bay. The club ran for 5 sessions throughout November, with a different project carried out each session. The projects that ran this term were:

  • Building a potato-powered LCD clock (intro to electricity flow in a circuit, anodes and cathodes, and a discussion on clean energy)
  • Building a laser-tag light sensor (intro to electronic components such as transistors, relays, buzzers and photoresistors)
  • Making money by electroplating (showing how coins are not simply ‘copper’ or ‘silver’, and how electroplating works)
  • Making a flashing Christmas decoration (an intro to soldering, the students assembled components on a pre-made PCB based on an NE555 timer and some LEDs)
  • Investigating light and electronics using LittleBits

Donibristle Science Club

The first meeting of the Donibristle Science Club. The club has 20 members, with 11 boys and 9 girls

 Girls team building a fan system

This team of girls attached a fan to a power supply and a switch to make a simple fan for cooling yourself on a hot day.

St John's College

St John's ran a Science Day with many exhibits and activities. In the mobile Planetarium Reception children were encouraged to put on their space suits and travel through space to learn about the stars, constellations and the moon. Year 5 pupils found out how to make periscopes using everyday household materials. The ‘Science-in-a-suitcase’ Workshop (which we were able to provide with thanks to generous funding from the Scottish Optoelectronics Association) offered hands on experiments that showed Years 1 to 6 how light can affect the eyes and brain and create optical illusions. And there was even a photo competition.

The day was a real hit with both parents and children:

The UKCPO funding  helped secure Science In A Suitcase, which made all the difference:

Reception class children enjoy the ‘Science in a Suitcase’ workshop.

Year 3 pupil learns about rainbows in Dr Karen Masters' presentation about light and the universe.

Millburn Academy

When the science department at Millburn Academy, Inverness wanted to celebrate UNESCO international year of light 2015 they could not visit a local science centre so instead they used funds from the UKCPO to recreate a science centre experience in their own school building!

Over two days all 190 second year pupils experienced 20 ‘exhibits’ in pairs during ten 45 minute sessions.   Aided by local STEM (Science Technology and Maths) ambassadors and senior students, second year pupils gained experience of 3D holograms, optical fibres using total internal reflection, laser light on jelly sweets and invisibility cloaking with convex lenses.  With an emphasis on hands-on experience the resounding view of pupils was “that was really cool” and even senior pupils were often surprised by the combination of light and electronics referred to in industry as ‘photonics’.

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