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On Saturday 5th October, members of the Applied Optics Group (AOG) teamed up with the SPS Outreach team and Discovery Planet to run a day-long event in Ramsgate. The team ran two market stalls: ‘Light Loops’ and ‘Light Botic.' The First stall was to demonstrate the properties and applications of light. The second was more focused on active research. The goal was to introduce members of the public to the state of the art, as well as get younger people to visualise themselves as scientists.

The first two experiments in the ‘Light Loops’ tent demonstrated how light travels through acrylic tubes and reflected down a stream of water being poured from a bucket. These demonstrations showed how light can be ‘bent’ using optical fibres, getting it to where we need it. This hopes to take the underpinning of fiber optics and deliver it in an accessible way.

Next, we simulate a laser based security system where participants are asked to retrieve a crystal placed in the middle of the maze without breaking the laser line. Finally in this tent, we show how contrast agents and light allow us to see the invisible using an ultraviolet torch to four hidden letters introducing the idea of using fluorescence in medical imaging and document security (as taught to our forensic science students).

Finding the remaining three letters to complete an anagram then took participants over to the ‘Light Botic’ tent. Here, the participant had to try their skills as a medic, hunting for the remaining letters inside a ‘patient’ using a flexible endoscope, and giving them an insight into how difficult medical diagnostics can be. This tent also showcased some of our latest work in miniaturised medical imaging devices for the lung.

We had lots of interest, from both adults and children, and we even had a surprise visit from the University Vice-Chancellor Prof Karen Cox who happened to be passing by! Market Traders and shoppers also told us they enjoyed the extra buzz and energy in the market.

Notes: The event was funded by the EPSRC REBOT (Robotic Endobronchial Optical Tomography project), a collaboration between the AOG and Imperial College London on combining optical coherence tomography with medical robotics for imaging the lung. SPS staff and students taking part were: Adrian Podoleanu, Manuel Marques, Mike Hughes, Vicky Mason, Hannah Tonry, Andy Thrapp, Adrian Uceda, Gianni Nteroli, and Julien Camard. We were also joined by two students currently visiting the Applied Optics Group from Germany (Melanie Wacker) and Mexico (Victor Rico Botero), as well as volunteers from Discovery Planet.

Some photos from the event: (credits: Discovery Planet/Portia Wilson Photography/Adrian Podoleanu)

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