IEEE Day 2016: “Introduce a Girl to Photonics” Week

Activities were designed to inspire the next generation of Women in Photonics. When shown what engineers can do, 76% of girls get interested in engineering. To inspire more young girls this year during the International Year of Light 2016, was held October 2–9, 2016 the IEEE Photonics Society held an International “Introduce a Girl to Photonics” Week to support our Women in Photonics initiative and IEEE Day 2016. In total, this outreach campaign and the IEEE Photonics Conference 2016 contributed 110+ events to the global campaign.

The goal of “Introduce a Girl to Photonics” was to coordinate events and activities worldwide to show young women and pre-university students how photonics impacts the world around them. IEEE Photonics supported volunteers, members and chapters by providing LASER Classroom™ Light Blox kits designed for classroom presentations and hands-on light and laser experiments. From Kindergarten to High-school, volunteers developed engaging and exciting lessons plans – expected to reach 3,300+ pre-university students and teachers world-wide. The kits made it easy and fun to bring the science of light into the classroom with light and laser experiments.

As a women who is a postdoc researcher in photonics, volunteer Farzaneh Bayatit, from the University of Tabriz in Tabriz, Iran, jumped at the chance to encourage young girls to become interested in her major. Bayatit used the Light Blox kits in the language classes she taught by showcasing a concave and convex lense experiment with LED lights on the classroom board. The girls were asked to help guess the light ray paths and at the end of class, produce experiments with the lenses on their own. Bayatit stated, “At the end of the class, I could see the interest in their shiny eyes and I was delighted I had the opportunity to introduce these girls to Photonics. The IEEE Photonics Society also encouraged its volunteers, chapters, community partners, and affiliate universities to participate by holding small events or activities in their local community. The Society also provided grants to universities that devised larger outreach events. Two chapters of mention are the UC Santa Barbara Student Chapter and the Women in Lasers and Optics (WiLO) Student Chapter that both preformed substantial events throughout the week.

Coinciding with the Society’s Women in Photonics campaign and the university’s Manufacturing Day, the UC Santa Barbara chapter, AIM Photonics and local photonics professionals, predominantly women, got involved by giving talks at local schools. For example, a hands-on photonics activity “Light-Pipes: controlling light” was ran at Girls Inc. of Goleta. Volunteers explained to the girls group how light usually goes in a straight line, but can be controlled by using reflections. Activities like this were designed to cultivate an interest in the wonders of light. The chapter also secured career day lectures and industry tours at local companies, i.e. Freedom Photonics and Crystalline Mirror Solutions (CMS), for the pre-university students. ​

The student chapter of the Women in Lasers and Optics introduce local middle school girls to the field of optics and photonics through interactive events at CREOL, the University of Central Florida. Volunteers conducted lab tours, hands-on demos and optics related games. Each girl was provided take home experiments and diffraction glasses, in order to remind the students of what they learned during their visit to the university.

The “Introduce a Girl to Photonics” campaign has grown substantially over the last year due to the Society’s partnerships with Laser Classroom, Girls Inc., and the National Girls Collaborative. With their support, photonics professionals have been making connections with the local chapters of these associations to help share their knowledge with the innovators (women) of tomorrow.