GTRI Laser Project Travels to Smithsonian Affiliate in Cartersville

Published: October 18, 2012

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Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) researchers Mike Knotts and Jack Wood continue to take the show on the road, as the Laser Project team prepares to showcase their exhibits at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Ga.

All of the Laser Project’s exhibits will be on display for the museum’s Nov. 2, 2012, Family Science Night, “Laserfest: Science So Hot, It’s Cool!” The event will be from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

“The organizers for Family Science Night were exploring what the theme of the evening could be, and they had heard about us,” Knotts said. “They contacted us in hopes that they could use lasers as the theme with us as the star attraction. Of course, we said ‘yes,’ and we’re glad to be a part of the event.”

Comprised of 11 exhibits, the Laser Project is one element of GTRI’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational outreach. STEM projects seek to foster interest in science and engineering education in elementary through high school students.

Exhibits include a “laser fountain,” which shows how light can actually follow curving pathways; a telephone exhibit that allows users to converse via a beam of light; a ray box illustrating how different shapes of glass bend light rays; and a light show that users can control, creating effects ranging from simple, to complex.

“Our exhibits are designed to appeal to all ages,” Wood said. “Our whole philosophy revolves around how important it is to build interest in science and math in elementary, middle and high school kids.” Wood adds that while some of the exhibits are quick to grasp, needing little explanation, others are more hands-on, and can stimulate conversation between the student and exhibitor.

Setting up and breaking down the exhibits are old hat for the duo and their team, as they will be setting up shop at the Kennesaw Charter Science and Math Academy, from Oct. 29 to Oct. 30.  In April 2012, the Laser Project made the trip to the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., as part of a Georgia Tech group of presenters.

“We are always looking for different science-themed topics for Family Science Night,” said Tellus Director of Education Cantey Smith. “We haven’t explored the subject of lasers yet, so it seemed like a good fit. In addition to the GTRI researchers, we’ll have our own ‘mad scientists’ on hand to talk to attendees. We also are holding a laser show with pop music in our planetarium.”

The Laser Project also supports the IEEE Atlanta Section Women in Engineering Affinity Group at Georgia Tech, and works with Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC), Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) and other groups on Georgia Tech's campus. The more awareness of the Laser Project that is generated, the better, Knotts and Wood say.

“We want the Georgia Tech community to be aware of us, since employees at GTRI and Tech are reasons we get invited to many of the schools and other places,” Knotts said.

Wood adds that it was the relationship some lab members have with Tellus personnel that led to their being booked for Family Science Night. “The Laser Project is also a great opportunity for people to volunteer in their schools and their communities. We always welcome people to join our team.”

GTRI is focused on STEM projects and outreach. Through Direct to Discovery and Foundations for the Future, GTRI researchers are working with and in schools across the state of Georgia.