Science and Engineering Day demonstrates excellence in outreach


The University of Southampton opened its doors on Saturday to thousands of people for its biggest outreach event of the year, Science and Engineering Festival 2016, part of British Science Week.

Amongst the huge range of activities, tours, and shows on offer was the opportunity to see inside the Optoelectronics Research Centre's (ORC) state-of-the-art cleanroom facility, home to the best set of photonics fabrication capabilities in the UK. This year was the second year the cleanrooms were opened up to the public.

Over 300 people visited the cleanroom on tours led by ORC senior research fellow, Dr James Gates and his team. Visitors had the opportunity to explore the cleanroom fabrication processes and assemble their own silicon chip key rings: some 180 were given out.

Younger children and families were attracted to a range of activities run by the ORC's Lightwave and the Nano Outreach teams. Over 250 children came along to explore the scientific principles of optics with hands-on experiments involving mirrors and prisms all the way up to laser modulation and guided optics giving a stimulating experience for children and parents alike. Getting dressed for the event is part of the fun: children learning about nanofabrication and were able to dress in free cleanroom ‘bunnysuits’, which they could take home after the event. Participants could also make their own microfluidic jelly chips. This was a huge success, with parents exclaiming this is what they had come over for, to play with jelly.

"Demonstrations of ray optics were particularly popular" said Nathan Soper from the Lightwave team. "Over one hundred people went away with diffraction gratings produced to celebrate the centennial year of the Optical Society (OSA), which has a Student Chapter at the University. From the smiles on the children’s faces it’s fair to say the day was greatly enjoyed by everyone involved."

Dr Katrina Morgan who, with Dr Despina Moschou, leads the Nano Outreach team commented: "Days like the Science and Engineering Day are vitally important for outreach. They enable the University to not only engage young minds but to inform parents of all the possibilities in their children’s future.

"The day was a resounding success. Families were queuing out of the door, waiting for their chance to dress up like a cleanroom scientist - both children and parents alike! My highlight of the day was when a mother exclaimed her joy at seeing such a high number of women researchers running the event, working in engineering."

Members of the public will soon have another opportunity to discover more about photonics and electronics research as ORC scientists head out into the city for the Pint of Science Festival. This annual event brings the latest scientific research to pubs, with venues across Southampton taking part from 23-25 May 2016.

For more information on forthcoming public engagement events, visit our Public Engagement with Research pages.

The Lightwave Team and the Optics and Photonics Society would like to thank the OSA, SPIE, IEEE Photonics Society and the EPSRC Future Photonics Manufacturing Hub for their support and funding.