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LaserFest receives NSF and DOE funding

29 May 2009

The year-long celebration of laser technology has received $300,000 from the federal agencies to support educational outreach initiatives.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have awarded $300,000 to LaserFest, a 2010 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first working laser.

With $150,000 from each agency, LaserFest will use the grants for educational programmes about the products and services made possible by laser technology, the wide-ranging career opportunities afforded by laser innovation, as well as the importance of ongoing scientific research and development for addressing societal needs.

The American Physical Society (APS) and the Optical Society of America (OSA) are organizing LaserFest, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the laser that will emphasize its historical impact and highlight its potential for the future. Through a series of events and programmes, LaserFest will help to showcase the prominence of the laser in today's world.

"By the time you eat lunch, you may have used 10 laser products and not even know it," said John Hall, Nobel laureate and member of the LaserFest technical advisory committee. "The scientists who invented the laser never dreamed that this technology would have such a profound impact, but laser technologies are embedded as a part of our lives. And, through the beauty of scientific R&D, there will be so many more developments. Ongoing research in the field is exploding and new technological possibilities are arising every day. From medicine and surgery to manufacturing and consumer entertainment and beyond, there's so much potential for all that lasers are and can be."

A significant goal of LaserFest is to raise awareness among students and the general public about the laser, its contributions and future possibilities. To help achieve that objective, DOE and NSF funding will support the development of the following activities:

  • LaserFest on the Road: this programme is designed to be a series of traveling laser technology demonstration shows aimed at middle-school audiences.
  • Laser Days: focusing on reaching the general public, Laser Days will consist of local events celebrating the use of the lasers in everyday life.
  • Videos: LaserFest will produce online video segments focusing on the roles of laser technology to expand awareness and understanding of laser technology.
  • Educational materials: classroom-ready materials, including a laser diffraction activity module, activity guides, posters and "physics in action" laser features, will be created and distributed to classrooms around the country.
  • Public outreach and special events: plans for several special events are in consideration for LaserFest, and potentially include a discussion of the colourful story of the laser, its history, and its multiple roles in basic science, medicine, commerce and industry; a symposium on the cutting-edge science that is currently being done with the laser; an exhibition of commercial products that use the laser in essential ways; and a laser demonstration show.

As a science community programme, LaserFest partners, including the OSA and the APS, encourage widespread involvement by all scientific professional societies, companies, academic institutions and conferences to participate and plan events as part of LaserFest. For more information on how to participate, visit www.LaserFest.org.

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