Science Clubs / Clubes de Ciencia: "Ocean Physics in a Changing Climta" and "Optical Chess"

I taught a one week, intensive workshop on ocean physics and climate change to a group of 15 students in Ensenada, Mexico. We used tank experiments, computer programs and even some field work to study such subjects as global warming, ocean measurements and the ecological dynamics of phytoplankton. I hope that my workshop sparked some interest in the earth sciences and empowered the students to consider studying science in the future. I know that I learned a lot from the experience, and will stay in touch with my students as a resource and mentor for them.

Isabela LeBlas

Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences - MIT

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The goal of this short course was to learn how to manipulate light with optics, and build a game using what we design in the course. We first learned the basics of optics, and how optical elements can be used to direct and control laser light: Mirrors reflect light, lenses expand or contract light, beam splitters split light, beam dumps absorb light, etc. We worked together to test how each optical element distorts the laser light. We then used these optical elements as “game pieces”:  We learned how to build a simple telescope setup, how to magnify light, and how to control light through a path.

Once we mastered our knowledge of the optical elements, we had a tournament based on the game we designed, with the goal of directing light from one end of a large “chess board” to the opponent team’s target. Players will have to think critically about which of their game pieces to use in order to direct the light correctly, or mis-direct their opponent’s light beam!

Both the students and I learned a great deal about how lasers are useful in modern-day technology, and about the history of lasers in the past 50 years. These discussions often led to broader discussions about how scientific discoveries (such as the laser) start out as curiosity based experiments without many foreseeable applications, and end up changing the course of human development and technology.

Markita del Carpio Landry

Chemical Engineering - MIT